The American Healthcare System Dictates the Lives of the Chronically Ill

I'm not alone in having my chain jerked back and forth because of the American healthcare system.

I'm not alone in having the "health insurance" talk with my parents.

I'm not the only person that gave up what they love to pursue a career that will give them reliable health insurance.

I went down a career path that I ultimately wouldn't be happy with and still had to leave because I wasn't suited for biology. Many people who rely on medical supplies and good health insurance continue to walk a career path that they don't want because they have to find a way to live.

I know a few of these people.

My friend, Billy, is one of these people. One of the first times I was around Billy, we laid on a beach in the middle of the night and he tried to hide his tears while telling me that he doesn't want to die because of this condition, but he knows that it's inevitable. He shed tears for the children he can never have. We shed tears for the years of our lives that this illness will steal from us. After the tears were finished, he looked at me and told me, "Carolina, I don't want to die like this. I'm scared." And we just continued to lay in the sand in haunting silence. He is newly diagnosed and terrified because this changed the entire course of his life. Billy doesn't need modern civilization, he needs to live off the grid. He belongs in a national forest. I've watched the city suck his soul out of his feet. I've never witnessed a person thrive in nature as he does. He stops in the middle of the road to pick flowers, calls me to go with him on 2 a.m. fishing sprees, and asks me to come with him to the forest to clear his head. The mountain man spirit was passed on from his turpentine farmer family and it flows through him with great force. Can he maintain a reliable job with good health insurance and access to a major hospital by living off the grid? No.

My friend, Louise, has had to go down a path that she never wanted either- all because she needs reliable health insurance. Louise is an incredibly talented visual artist who can't pursue what she loves because of our healthcare system. I am constantly amazed by the creativity that flows through her veins— but this will come to an end in a few months. She has had multiple portraits displayed in the Halsey Museum of Art, but when she graduates, her displays will end.

I've watched Louise shed tears. I've shed tears with Billy. Both of my friends made me realize that our shared illness stops us from doing what we love, as much as we try to take the reigns of this illness and control our own lives.

Louise is one semester away from graduating with an accounting degree that she doesn't want. Louise already suffers mentally from her medical condition, but she also suffers because she's been forced to ignore what she loves in order to get a job with good health insurance. As much as she tries to not think about it, the "health insurance" talk always comes up when we're together.

I've wandered into the Francis Marion forest in the middle of the night with Billy. He is able to ignore reality much better than I am. I know it weighs heavily on this mind. I've seen him take his worries out in ways that aren't very kind to his already weak body. But he goes into the forest, shuts off his brain, and does what he loves. He picks up bugs, reptiles, and flowers to teach me about them. He plays old banjo music and sits in silence, admiring Earth's creations.

I've ignored my own condition to the point of hospitalizing myself.

Billy has ignored his condition to the point of believing that he was cured.

Louise has ignored her condition to the point of having grand mal seizures in the middle of busy streets.

We can maintain the illusion of control, but this illness controls the greatest aspect of our lives.

Underneath it all, the harsh reality of the American healthcare system is that the monopolization of pharmaceuticals is ruining lives and killing people daily. 

Insurance companies are monopolies with nothing controlling their inflated prices and coverage options.

Pharmaceutical companies price gouge live-saving medication to the point that 26-year-old men keel over and die because the precious liquid life that was once $24 a bottle in 2002 can reach over $1k per bottle at the pharmacy without health insurance. The cost of production for insulin is $2-4 a bottle. Three companies control insulin production for diabetics- all price gouge the medication that we require to stay alive. Insulin is only insulin, I'm not taking other supplies into account.

This harsh reality takes the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

The cruelty of our healthcare system does not discriminate. It doesn't care about who it kills.

I've had one friend die because he couldn't afford his medication and began playing ping-pong with his life. His name was Eric, a 30-year-old engineer with plenty of life ahead of him that was cut short because of our capitalistic, monopolized healthcare system. 

Louise and Billy have changed their lives so they can continue to pay for their medication due to insane price gouging. Our shortened lives are dedicated to stuffing the pockets insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies.

Our healthcare system doesn't just hurt people with chronic illnesses, it hurts everyone- but that's another story.