Below is an excerpt from the 2010 Minority Health edition of She Shines, a magazine published by YWCA Northern RI. Click here to read the full article and the entire issue.
Our Stories, Our Bodies, Our Lives
by Reza Corinne Clifton
WASHINGTON, DC – The room was humming with voices and filled with a variety of colors – as you would expect at a conference that’s attracted hundreds. But as introductions began and the next speaker took the stage, the crowd became quiet; I was in the audience that day, among those who became transfixed. It was January 28, 2010, and it was the annual Health Action “Grassroots” Conference held by the national health advocacy organization, Families USA.
In a demeanor completely absent of histrionics, Congresswoman Donna Edwards, a Representative from Maryland, told the audience her own health story. It is one that starts with a career shift and corresponding inability to pay for COBRA, the temporary health insurance provided by certain employers after a person has lost his or her job. While able to acquire insurance for her son, “I crossed my fingers,” she says as what she chose for herself. Eventually she felt sick; in fact “sicker and sicker,” she recalled, until the day she passed out at a grocery store to then be rushed to the Emergency Room.
In some ways she was lucky, she describes, because there was no withholding of treatment in relation to her insurance status. But that luck would soon run out as thousands of dollars in hospital bills arrived, followed by debates about which bills to pay and, eventually, the foreclosure notices. “My personal experience shows,” concludes Edwards, “what we might have today, we might not have tomorrow.” Or the day after that, as was clear from her journey to medical and financial recovery represented in her visible presence and stature that day.
Keep reading the article, and see the entire “Minority Health” issue by visiting SheShines.org. Or click here to download it directly. The edition includes interviews and features with “a variety of community health workers a trusted health reporter, and those working closely in neighborhoods and community centers,” including co-founders of Urban Health Watch.