The treatment centers were too expensive the lowest price my sister was quoted was $799.00 A DAY! I realized at that moment that if I was wealthy I could possibly save my daughter! What a horrible thought to know! I am not rich and my beautiful daughter was fighting this on her own. How pathetic I felt! If I had a better job with better benefits we possibly could fight this.
The words above are from Reanna’s Story. Reanna was seventeen when she lost her life to anorexia while waiting for treatment. Her devastated mother, Tracy Smith, told her story to a Congressional Briefing held by the Eating Disorders Coalition. Just warning you before you click on that link: the details of the illness are quite upsetting.
In America, health care facilities are largely owned and operated by the private sector. You are supposed to have health insurance to cover your needs. If you don’t – well, sorry, but basically that’s tough. Read this and be scared.
[Yes, American health care is more complicated than this. No, I’m not going to discuss the complexities. Yes, I’ve simplified for the purposes of the argument. No, this does not make my argument invalid.]
So when Reanna’s body was shutting down, and she urgently needed professional help, it just boiled down to the simple fact that her mother could not afford the money required. Let me repeat Tracy’s words:
I realized at that moment that if I was wealthy I could possibly save my daughter…How pathetic I felt!
Something had to be done. Tracy changed her life completely in order to get the requisite health insurance, but time was running out:
August 2010, I went back to school to get a better job. I went to Truck Driving School. I knew that if I put all my efforts towards this I could get her the insurance she needed to fight this disease. In early September 2010 I got a job offer. This meant I needed to make drastic changes. Being a single mother I sent my daughters to live with their older sister in Las Vegas, NV. I would be employed by Night Trucking with an awesome insurance package. Unfortunately this meant I had to leave my daughter when she needed me most! I knew that this was going to be the solution to our problems. I was gone for seven weeks straight. I called every day and every night we texted often. My daughters would give me updates regarding Reanna’s condition, and they were not good. She was increasing her bingeing, purging and depression was more severe. No one could get her to stop, not even me.
Reanna died on 15th November 2010. The last words she wrote in her journal were
Where is the help I was promised?
Not here, not my fault I want help!
This story is horrific. And I couldn’t help but think about the contrast with healthcare in Britain.
The London 2012 opening ceremony was a retrospective of British history, showcasing the best of Britain from pre-Industrial Revolution to the present day. As amusing as Dizzee Rascal was (is), what really stayed with me was the performance by nurses and patients of Great Ormond Street Hospital. The UK’s public healthcare system, the National Health Service, was established on the core principle that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth, and to my mind is one of the best ever British achievements.
The NHS is free at the point of delivery, which means that when you feel ill, you go to the doctor, and you don’t pay them anything. When you’re seriously injured in a car accident, the ambulance comes, and you don’t pay them anything. When you’re suffering from a life-threatening disorder, you go to hospital, and you don’t pay them anything. It’s funded through the general taxation system, so your access to the medical care you need is based on whether you need it, not whether you can pay for it.
I love so many things about America, and so much good has come out of that country. And I really, really don’t want this to be about one nation thinking it’s better than another because it has a different health care system, so this isn’t really the health care Olympics. But as I read Reanna’s story, I knew it wouldn’t happen like that in Britain, and that makes me very sad for her and her mother.
The Eating Disorders Coalition in the USA is devoted to working on the federal recognition of eating disorders as a public health priority. Click here to donate to the EDC.