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Posts Tagged ‘Nick Kristof’

Every 20 minutes an American dies for lack of health insurance: one man’s story

In behavior, culture, Health, journalism, life, Media, Medicine, Money, politics, US on October 19, 2012 at 12:11 am
Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This, from The New York Times:

So why didn’t I get physicals? Why didn’t I get P.S.A. tests? Why didn’t I get examined when I started having trouble urinating? Partly because of the traditional male delinquency about seeing doctors. I had no regular family doctor; typical bachelor guy behavior.

I had plenty of warning signs, and that’s why I feel like a damned fool. I would give anything to have gone to a doctor in, say, October 2011. It fills me with regret. Now I’m struggling with all my might to walk 30 feet down the hallway with the physical therapists holding on to me so I don’t fall. I’ve got all my chips bet on the hope that the radiation treatments that I’m getting daily are going to shrink the tumors that are pressing on my spinal cord so that someday soon I can be back out on the sidewalk enjoying a walk in my neighborhood. That would be the height of joy for me.

The writer of those words, Scott Androes, is now dead. He did not have health insurance so he did not see a doctor when he first noticed the signs of prostate cancer.

When Times’ columnist Nick Kristof yesterday wrote about his friend’s death, he got replies like this one:

“I take care of myself and mine, and I am not responsible for anyone else.”

Here’s some of Kristof’s column:

I wrote in my last column about my uninsured college roommate, Scott Androes, and his battle with Stage 4 prostate cancer — and a dysfunctional American health care system. I was taken aback by how many readers were savagely unsympathetic.

Readers’ Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

“Your friend made a foolish choice, and actions have consequences,” one reader said in a Twitter message.

As my column noted, Scott had a midlife crisis and left his job in the pension industry to read books and play poker, surviving on part-time work (last year, he earned $13,000). To save money, he skipped health insurance.

The United States, whose own Declaration of Independence vows “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, has become a shockingly divided place, where far too many of those who have inherited, cheated, conned, off-shored — or yes, fairly earned — their good fortune — are now hammering the oars of their lifeboats against the desperate, clutching, frozen hands of those now dying and drowning in the icy waters of an ongoing recession.

Too many of of those now driving gleaming new luxury vehicles see people like Androes, if they acknowledge them at all, as mere bugs on the windshield, something small and annoying to be ignored or dismissed.

Androes screwed up. He, God forbid, decided to step off the hamster wheel for a while and take life a little easier, something many of us long to do at mid-life. With no wife or kids to support, he was able to do that. But he was not able to afford health insurance, which is sold here like any other consumer product — and which can be brutally expensive. When I was able to get onto my husband’s health plan at work, even unmarried, in 2003, I was then, as a single, healthy woman in my 40s, paying $700 a month.

That meant an overhead, every year, of $8,400 just to avoid medical bankruptcy. Given that my mother has survived five kinds of cancer, I went without many other amusing choices (new clothes, travel, eating out) for years just to be sure I could, and did, get annual mammograms and Pap smears and all the preventive medicine possible to stay healthy.

Many people in the United States now earn $7 to 12/hour, since the two largest sources of new jobs in this country are foodservice and retail, which pay badly, offer only part-time work and no benefits (i.e. employer-subsidized health insurance). They might as well make out their will now. Because they can’t afford regular medical checkups, nor medication nor ongoing counseling to manage their diabetes or heart disease, even if it’s been diagnosed.

A young friend  — sober — fell on a slippery sidewalk, on a steep hill in the rain, and severely damaged one of his knees. He needs surgery that will cost $22,000. His employer, a Christian-based organization, the YMCA, refuses to help.

Yet another writer to Kristof said that people who are destitute medically have all created their own hells, and that’s where they belong:

“Smoking, obesity, drugs, alcohol, noncompliance with medical advice. Extreme age and debility, patients so sick, old, demented, weak, that if families had to pay one-tenth the cost of keeping the poor souls alive, they would instantly see that it was money wasted.”

I am ashamed to live in a country where selfishness is considered normal behavior.

I am appalled by such vicious callousness.

I am sickened by a growing lack of compassion from those who have never known, and utterly dismiss in others, the sting, shame, fear and misery of poverty and desperation.

And you?

How does this make you feel?

Learning The World — Face to Face, Voice To Voice; Kristof Picks His Newest Africa Sidekick

In education, Media, world on March 11, 2010 at 10:25 am
View of Kabul from TV-Hill, Afghanistan

Kabul. Image via Wikipedia

Just listened to British kids talking to Afghan students on BBC World News — powerful and moving stuff; there is a nine-minute audio embedded in this link.

The British children were clearly shocked to hear that simply heading off to school every morning, something they dread or fight, might mean facing a bomb blast for their Afghan counterparts:

As the children in Kabul shared their experiences, the atmosphere in the studio changed. The School Reporters from Bristol listened carefully to the harsh realities of every day life in Afghanistan – a life so different to the one they know.

They freely admitted they knew very little about what was going on and hadn’t previously thought much about what it was like to live there. Dom said he had no idea how difficult things were. He asked why they would risk their lives just to go to school.

Speaking from Kabul, Hawaa replied that it was because she felt it was important to have an education. Hawaa and Yasin said they had to try and get the best education they could, so that they could help their country in the future.

I could see how moved all six Bristol students were at the determination and enthusiasm of the children in Kabul to seize any opportunity they could to go to school.

As we came to the end of our time together, a subdued and thoughtful group paid tribute to the young people in Kabul.

Callum found the students from Kabul inspiring and praised them on their ability to cope, admitting he wasn’t sure he’d be able to do the same. Dom didn’t think he’d want to risk dying just to get to lessons and Kavita, Morgan and Eleanor discussed the bravery of young people in Kabul living in such a dangerous place.

Nick Kristof has picked his latest traveling companion, Mitch Smith, a journalism student from Nebraska who will accompany The New York Times columnist to Africa.

Here’s a bit from Smith’s winning essay:

My life to this point has been a series of double-quarter-pounders at McDonald’s, history tests and reporting assignments for my campus newspaper about the women’s rifle shooting team (feel free to insert a joke about the fact that my college has a women’s rifle team).

And it’s been a lovely ride. I attended a great high school, I am going to a fine college and – judging by the fate of most in my situation – I will land a moderately satisfying job, go on a cruise to Cancún, take an elderhostel to Dublin and then die.

Thing is, I’m not OK with that. I’m a quarter of the way through my life and still haven’t applied for a passport. As much as I hate it, I have truly done NOTHING on a global scale to make the world better (and no, I don’t put community service at elementary schools and my Eagle Scout project in that category).

But I’d like to think of my life to this point as a preparation for bigger and better things. I have been in love with journalism since picking up the sports page of the Kansas City Star when I was in first grade. I wrote for the teen section of The Star a few years ago and was also editor-in-chief of my high school paper.

But the reason I love journalism isn’t seeing my byline at the top of a story or winning awards. No, I love journalism because nothing else gives you permission to ask questions about the most intimate topics and then entrusts you to tell a person’s life story. It’s this love of telling people’s stories and inspiring action that has me interested in accompanying you on this trip.

In today’s column, Kristof also proposes a new plan to get more young Americans out of their borders and into the world:

Teach for the World also would be an important education initiative for America itself. Fewer than 30 percent of Americans have passports, and only one-quarter can converse in a second language. And the place to learn languages isn’t an American classroom but in the streets of Quito or Dakar or Cairo.

Here’s a one-word language test to measure whether someone really knows a foreign country and culture: What’s the word for doorknob? People who have studied a language in a classroom rarely know the answer. But those who have been embedded in a country know. America would be a wiser country if we had more people who knew how to translate “doorknob.” I would bet that those people who know how to say doorknob in Farsi almost invariably oppose a military strike on Iran.

(Just so you don’t drop my column to get a dictionary: pomo de la puerta in some forms of Spanish; poignée de porte in French; and dash gireh ye dar in Farsi.)

American universities are belatedly recognizing how provincial they are and are trying to get more students abroad. Goucher College in Baltimore requires foreign study, and Princeton University has begun a program to help incoming students go abroad for a gap year before college.

The impact of time in the developing world is evident in the work of Abigail Falik, who was transformed by a summer in a Nicaraguan village when she was 16. As a Harvard Business School student two years ago, she won first place in a competition for the best plan for a “social enterprise.” Now she is the chief executive of the resulting nonprofit, Global Citizen Year, which gives high school graduates a gap year working in a developing country.

OK, I speak French and Spanish and no, I didn’t know the word for doorknob in either.

But he is right to be utterly passionate about getting Americans, literally and physically, into the rest of the world, and not just Paris/London/Cancun.

I was 25 when I won an eight-month Paris-based fellowship, along with 28 journalists from 19 nations — Togo, Ireland, New Zealand, Japan, Italy, Brazil. I became close friends with Yasuro, a Japanese man, in French, as I did with Mila, a Brazilian woman. Most of us had never left our homes and families behind for so long, had to work with people with profoundly different ideas of what constitutes a story (let alone what English words to use) and simply get along.

Our work that year meant traveling alone for 10-day reporting trips on politics, social issues, culture and economics. I covered Cruise missiles in Sicily; squatters in London, Paris and Amsterdam; the Royal Danish Ballet and spent eight day in a French truck driving from Perpignan to Istanbul to understand the challenges faced by drivers in the EU. Most fun ever.

No other time in my life so radically changed forever how I thought and felt about my place in the world. True/Slant has writers right now reporting from Russia, Hanoi, Rome, Beijing, Tel Aviv, India, Kabul — even Bhutan. I can’t wait, daily, to see what they’ve got for us.

My passport, (and my green card allowing me back into the States) remains my most treasured possession. Next to my unquenchable sense of curiosity.

I wish everyone had both and could use them frequently. There is no better way to understand the world than to experience it firsthand with someone of another culture — sharing a meal, laughing with someone you’ve just met on a bus or ferry, or (worst case, as I’ve done) waiting together in an ER or doctor’s office, in a place far, far away from anything comforting and familiar to you.

American college students, though, insanely burdened by educational debt, graduate with chains on their ankles, which makes taking off with a backpack for even three months, a bare minimum to start to feel truly (and usefully) disoriented, tough.

In this global economy, where understanding and working effectively with other cultures is more crucial than ever, this remains a cruel irony.

She Lost Her Fiance, Job And Home — But Found 'A Thousand Sisters' in Congo

In women, world on February 4, 2010 at 3:10 pm
Map showing Dominican republic of Congo

Congo. Image via Wikipedia

As we head toward Valentine’s Day, and the tedious focus on lingerie/chocolates and jewelry, here’s a story of powerful, transformative love, about Lisa Shannon, a 34-year-old from Portland, Oregon:

That’s where Lisa enters the story. After seeing the Oprah show on the Congo war, Lisa began to read more about it, learning that it is the most lethal conflict since World War II. More than five million had already died as of the last peer-reviewed mortality estimate in 2007.

Everybody told her that the atrocities continued because nobody cared. Lisa, who is now 34, was appalled and decided to show that she cared. She asked friends to sponsor her for a solo 30-mile fund-raising run for Congolese women.

That led her to establish Run for Congo Women, which has held fund-raising runs in 10 American states and three foreign countries. The money goes to support sponsorships of Congolese women through a group called Women for Women International.

But in her passion, Lisa neglected the stock photo business that she and her fiancé ran together. Finally, he signaled to her that she had to choose — and she chose Congo….

On this visit to Congo, Lisa is organizing a Run for Congo Women right here in Bukavu, for Feb. 28, with Congolese rape survivors participating. You can sponsor them at www.runforCongowomen.org.

Here’s a link to Lisa’s project and her book.

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