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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Allison Kugel’s story: After the worst anxiety of my life

The turning point came after the worst anxiety of my life, oddly enough.  It’s hard to say what’s genetic and what's environmental, but I’m inclined to think it’s genetic, as my mother had agoraphobia, like me.  I lived with OCD [obsessive-compulsive disorder] since age eight or nine, and there was always an incident here or there, like a panic attack with friends around, which was embarrassing.  I resigned myself to it.

In 2012 a lot things happened at once.  My job as a syndicated entertainment journalist was very important to me:  it was exciting, and a creative outlet.  But it came to an end, and I had to resign.  At the same time my marriage had fallen apart, and my father and grandmother had gotten ill.  It was a perfect storm!  My anxiety became the worst in my life; I couldn’t function.  I had five or six panic attacks a day, and wound up in the E.R. several times in a short period of time.

I was put on Klonopin to calm down my body and mind.  In that extreme couple of months, I’m not sure what happened inside of me to make it a turning point:  finding the right medication, going to a psychologist who specialized in panic attacks and phobias, reading a lot, delving into the research a lot.  I started spinning in the opposite direction.

Especially when I turned 40, I said, the first half of the ride is over; if you’re lucky, you get 80 good years.  I didn’t want the second half to be like this.   I got my medication re-adjusted, and got into meditation, prayer, spirituality….  And horseback riding--I wanted something symbolic of something I’d never done before.  In the past, I would’ve steered clear of that.

I decided to start taking some reasonable risks, getting more flavor out of life.  I learned to boogey board in the ocean with my son, and do some things against type, which were very freeing!  Writing this book helped me heal quite a bit.  I cherry-picked some stories to explain this journey, and weave in and out some of the fun celebrity stuff. 

When you write a book about your life, it’s like a 3-D hologram, watching a movie of my life.  It’s tricky:  I’m the observer!  It was extremely therapeutic—it enabled me to go back and revisit some moments of my life, which was very cathartic!  It enabled me to find a much deeper perspective, and gave me an answer to the age-old question when we feel we’ve been dealt a bad card:  Why me?!  This answered that question, which was huge, and very empowering!  

Allison’s advice:  If you’re going through hell, keep going!  You don’t get there by standing still.  You have to put one foot in front of the other, and seek help.  Ask for help and advice.  I put myself in the hands of professionals who were helping me.

Read a story of a hard-won recovery.  Thanks to Jaime Katz of Full Scale Media for arranging the interview with Allison.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

One million Ohio stories: Keep the Care in the Affordable Care Act

As Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio considers repealing the Accountable Care Act, I hope he keeps two Ohioans in mind.   Natoma Canfield is a middle-aged cancer survivor, a cleaning lady from Medina, Ohio.  Starla Darling is a young mother working in northern Ohio.  She had induced her labor early, just before her employer went bankrupt.

Both these women rely on a strong safety net.  

About one million Ohioans would lose health coverage under the bill recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, which is substantially similar to the Senate bill now in process.  About 700,000 would lose Medicaid and an estimated 293,000 would lose their coverage through the private health-care exchanges, the office of Ohio’s Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown said.  Republican Senate Rob Portman indicated in May that he doesn’t support the House bill because it doesn’t do enough to protect Ohio’s Medicaid expansion population, especially those being treated for opioid abuse.  The Senate bill is now being prettied up with lipstick to attract fence-sitting Republican senators.  

Advice: Share this with your friends in Ohio, urging them to call Sen. Portman’s office at 202-224-3353  with these stories and yours, to ensure he stands firm.  Also, you can enter your story on his website.

Thanks for the source article by Jessica Wehrman in the Columbus Dispatch of May 25, 2017, which quantified the harm to Ohioans.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Arizonans’ stories and the Affordable Care Act

Arizona has been dangerously hot lately.  Speaking of hot air dangerously out of control, the Affordable Care Act is in the middle of a firestorm.

These Arizonans all depend on the Affordable Care Act in some way:

Phoenix residents Bryan and Jenny Masche were blessed with sextuplets.  They’ll need to be able to rely on Medicaid.  

Jeff Jeans, a small businessman in Sedona, was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his vocal cords, and now says the ACA saved his life. 

The El Rio Community Health Center in Tucson serves Medicare patients with diabetes like Maria, and many Medicaid patients.  Deep cuts in the Affordable Care Act could greatly reduce the capabilities of Federally Qualified Health Centers like El Rio.

In Wickenburg, Dirk Almstedt and several members of his family struggle with chronic Lyme disease.  Their burdensome care has made him cut way back on his work hours, so they need to be sure Medicaid will be there to cover them. 

Advice:  Ask your Arizonan friends to call Sen. John McCain at (202) 224-2235 and Sen. Jeff Flake at 202-224-4521 to protect the ACA.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Affordable Care Act: A new lease on life

A distressed mom’s story:
     Our son was born with a serious congenital heart defect but is healthy and living a productive life, thanks to two open-heart surgeries, one at age six and the second at age 42. He suffered a heart attack at age 20 and a stroke at age 30, both requiring hospitalization, tests, and medication, but has recovered.

     Currently, he is a successful free-lance videographer in Massachusetts, working for a number of production companies, but has no organization through which he can buy medical insurance.  The MA Affordable Care Act made possible for him to purchase medical insurance as an individual with a pre-existing condition.  This insurance covered his second surgery which gave him a new lease on life.  His insurance cost before the Affordable Care Act in Massachusetts was well over $1,000 a month, after RomneyCare fell to $800 a month and after ObamaCare fell to $700 a month – still a significant expense.  But it has been a huge relief to know that the insurance is there in the event of another medical emergency.  The Affordable Care Act works!

     Repealing the parts of ObamaCare that cover costs of this program will totally destroy it, leaving people like my son at the mercy of greedy insurance companies.  His insurance costs are certainly going to go higher than $1,000 per month as soon as the Affordable Care Act is repealed by the Republicans.  

     What will replace ObamaCare for the 20,000,000 who, like my son, are trying to survive?
Are the Republicans so power hungry that they cannot see what they are doing?

The storyteller is a member of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, a group of the congregations of 42 churches, synagogues and mosques.  GBIO was a leader in the coalition that brought universal health insurance to Massachusetts, as the model for ObamaCare.

Read about the effects of universal health insurance in Massachusetts.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Affordable Care Act: I clinically died twice

Guadalupe Mota told his story at a meeting of nearly 900 members of 32 of the churches, mosques, and synagogues in the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization on Feb. 2.  

     I am here because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) saved my life.  I was born and raised in Zacatecas, Mexico. When I was learning to walk as a child, like many kids, I would fall and bump my head. But in my case, when that happened, I’d start to bleed uncontrollably.  My parents took me to the doctor, and I was diagnosed hemophilia.  Hemophilia is a hereditary disorder that prevents a person’s blood from clotting. That means both internal and external bleeding can easily become life threatening.

     At age 13, I had a severe internal bleeding that put me in the hospital.  The doctors could not control the bleeding because the medicines they needed had run out. Mexico’s healthcare system was, and still is, too poor and broken to afford the medicines patients like me needed. During that stay in the hospital, I bled so severely that I clinically died twice. Miraculously, I was brought back to life. It is a miracle I am alive today. In many countries like Mexico, hemophiliacs die in their childhood or teenage years because there is no medicine available.

     My parents decided they couldn’t allow this to happen again. Holding dual citizenship in the United States, they decided to move our family to California. They left behind their jobs, our home, and many of our family so I could have access to the medicines I needed. Once in the United States, I received insurance through the state, then through MIT, when I came here for college. After that, I was covered by my employers. As a working adult, my pre-existing condition prevented me from getting coverage for myself.

     Fast forward to January of 2016. I graduated from business school without a job--and without insurance. I once again felt the desperation I had in Mexico. If this had been 2008, my pre-existing condition would have made it impossible to buy insurance. By this time, though,  the ACA was in place. It allowed me to purchase insurance through the Connector at a reasonable price. For the months it took me to find a job, it was my safety net.

     That safety net saved my life. Two months after graduating, I again ended up in a Boston hospital with internal bleeding.  The medicine provided by the hospital stopped my bleeding. But without my insurance, there’s no way I could have afforded those medicines. My condition could have killed me, just as it almost did in Mexico. But it didn’t, because of the Affordable Care Act. I am here because the Affordable Care Act saved my life.

Share this, and your own story, with your U.S. Senators in Alaska, Arizona, Iowa, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia and elsewhere.  Get their name and phone number here.  Read another ACA story

Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin Luther King on health care injustice: Jeff Jeans, just like you

Jeff Jeans, now a small businessman from Arizona, had volunteered in two Republican presidential campaigns and strongly opposed the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  A few years ago, his employer had filed for bankruptcy, ending Jeff’s health insurance coverage, just before Jeff was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his vocal cords in 2012.  If it were left untreated, he was told, he’d have about six weeks to live.  His wife bought an insurance policy through the ACA, and that day, his cancer treatments began.  Jeff has since created a Facebook group, ObamaCareSavedMyLife

“Just like you, I was a Republican,” he told Speaker Paul Ryan at a town hall meeting last Thursday, adding that only because of the ACA “I am standing here today alive.” 

As the Rev. Martin Luther King said in March 1966, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” In his “I Have a Dream” speech, he mentioned the Founding Fathers’ promissory note guaranteeing to all of us the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  As he said then, “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

Ken’s Advice:  Show this to your friends in Wisconsin and ask them to call Congressman Paul Ryan, House Speaker, at 202-225-3031 to urge that he preserve the ACA’s guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Read another ACA pre-existing condition story.  Thanks to Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post for the source article on January 14.