I learned last night that two friends of mine were severely injured in an accident on Highway 128 when a tree fell across the cab of their truck (which in turn spun out and hit another tree.) They were airlifted to Fort Bragg and Ukiah, respectively, and then airlifted again to Santa Rosa because their injuries were beyond the scope of hospital personnel. They are both going to be ok–one of them is going into surgery today and may be able to walk as soon as Saturday, or so the doctors think. However, the other isn’t so lucky–she is looking at up to a year and a half of painful recovery and physical therapy. Fortunately, rescue personnel were on scene within 10 minutes, getting them the help they needed quickly. Another friend of mine was not so lucky, and waited several hours in the darkness of 128 for help a few years ago.
News of the accident highlighted a couple of things in my mind. The first is that it’s dangerous to live and drive here. I’ve lost friends to 128, and a number of my friends have been in accidents of varying severity along its stretch. Sometimes this has been due to their own recklessness, and sometimes through no fault of their own. I hardly think a driver is to blame when a tree falls on their vehicle, for example. That’s not one of those things they teach you about in driver’s safety class. Accidents along 128 and 20 are common. Both are fairly high traffic roads, and both are dangerous. They are very curvy, and narrow. They harbor black ice. Tourists underestimate them and locals are overconfident. This is one of the things about my community that I wouldn’t change most of the time–I like the isolation. But it does come with a high price.
Usually CalStar takes people directly to Santa Rosa when their injuries are that extensive, because it’s more equipped to handle major trauma. It’s rather odd that the two were airlifted to two different cities, and then airlifted again–that equals mucho dinero. For people with helicopter insurance like me , this isn’t a big deal. (And if you live anywhere on earth, please get helicopter insurance. It’s usually surprisingly cheap–CalStar is only $50 a year, for example, and you will appreciate it when you need it, let me tell you.) However, my friends were young and not only do they not have helicopter insurance, they don’t even have health insurance. They are looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills that they have no realistic way of paying, and this saddens me. It saddens me because they are probably going to be saddled for the rest of their lives with crippling debt. It saddens me because they happen to live in one of the few first world countries without socialized medicine. I know that socialized medicine has its own faults and issues, but if America (or simply California) had made the logical step to making health care available to all citizens, I know two families that would be a little less devastated today. I’m glad that they got medical care, because hospitals are not allowed to turn away people in need, and I’m glad that there is a law in this country specifying that, considering the large number of uninsured.
Health insurance is expensive. I have catastrophic and not much else, with a $750 deductible, and it costs over $200 per month. So I pay up to $2,400 a year on the off chance that I might need emergency care (only really I pay $3,150, because of my deductible). Curiously, whenever I go into the emergency room, it seems not to be covered. If I was ever in a catastrophic car accident where I needed to be airlifted and required thousands of dollars in care, I would probably be very thankful for my insurance. Too bad there’s a lifetime cap on my insurance policy. That’s right. After the ticker passes a certain number, they will cease coverage. But right now it’s just another burden to bear in an already costly world, and let me tell you, insurance companies hardly reward you for healthy living. You don’t get a “you didn’t go to the ER this year, good for you” rebate, kids. It troubles me that most people in my age range do not have health insurance or that they have minimal insurance. I think that’s wrong, straight up. With changes in the bankruptcy laws, fewer people are able to declare bankruptcy because of medical bills–therefore, fewer people nationwide are declaring bankruptcy. But I assure you, the number of lives being shattered due to sudden medical need are no less. This country desperately needs a systemic review of its healthcare system. It’s time for it–the rest of the world is probably laughing at us.
I imagine that if I lived in a country with socialized medicine, this post would be very different. I would tell you about the terrible car accident my friends were in and ask you to think of them and hope their recovery is swift. I might mention something about the EMS response, or that a helicopter was used, but I certainly can’t imagine myself then going on for several paragraphs about what this represents to the families–not only worry over their children, but financial agony. And that’s wrong. I can imagine that when the families first learned about the accident, a fleeting though probably crossed their minds oh, god, how much is this going to cost?
I imagine that in the next few days or weeks, a fund will be set up to benefit the girls, and when it is, I hope that you can donate a few dollars–it would make a big difference to them.