by Chris Quilter
This edition of Patchwork got underway in the utilitarian jurors’ lounge at the Santa Ana Courthouse, where solid citizens silently pray they will not be required to demonstrate their commitment to our democratic way of life. My prayers went unanswered, which is only fair when they are so transparently self-serving. Additionally, the last time I served on a jury—and witnessed the wheels of justice turn far more slowly than they do on “Law & Order,” but turn—was an acceptable number of years ago. To be completely fair, it’s my turn.
My sense of justice has always been commingled with the idea of fairness. This no doubt springs from the tragic circumstances of being a middle child. Not only wasn’t I born first, I was then usurped by some little wretch who could have modeled for Ivory Snow… Heavens, what brought that on? I tell you what: an invitation I received recently to attend the latest in a long line of medical fundraisers for completely deserving friends and neighbors who are battling life-threatening illnesses which have left them financially flattened.
In “Sick Around the World,” PBS visited five other capitalist democracies — the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland — to see how they delivered health care. Experts in each country were asked: how many of your citizens find themselves bankrupted by medical debt each year? Their shocked answer: “Why, none, of course.”
A study published in 2009 in The American Journal of Medicine found that over 60 percent of our personal bankruptcies—which numbered about 1.5 million in 2011—had a medical cause. We’re not talking financial irresponsibility here. We’re talking medical bills. Of the bankruptcies caused by cancer, 78 percent reported having some form of health insurance, de-bunking the myth that medical bills only crush the uninsured.
In a small town like ours, we all know people in this particular pickle and the friends who rally to their sides. Now the call has gone out from the Friends of Darrin Reed: they are having a fundraiser on Thursday, June 27, 6 p.m., hosted by Mark La Palma at ReMark’s Restaurant in Laguna Canyon. Tickets are $125, and the easiest way to get one, or make a donation, is to go online at friendsofdarrin.com.
Anyone who knows Darrin knows one of the nicest guys in town. I met him when he performed in “Lagunatics” a while back. Parents know him as the voice of the Laguna Beach Unified School District, where he’s worked for the past 15 years as the assistant to a series of superintendents. Last fall, at age 47, Darrin was diagnosed with leukemia, and he has since endured endless rounds of chemo, emergency surgeries, nearly 100 days in the hospital, and a bone marrow transplant. (Check out caringbridge.org/visit/darrinreed for the details, told by the other hero in this story, Darrin’s partner Ray.)
Darrin is far from well but has been getting better. He also has a mountain of medical bills and no salary until he is well enough to return to work. Why is that? Pardon my rant, but why does the American way of providing health care force solid citizens like Darrin to beg for charity? Don’t get me wrong: Darrin is the kind of person we can feel honored to help. I’ll be at ReMark’s on the 27th. I hope to see you there and share our good fortune to be part of a community which looks after its own.
It’s the best we can do. But it’s far from good enough.
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