Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sarah Adkins's Voice

To Mr. Romney:

I am the 47%.

I did everything that I was supposed to do.

I've been training in the visual arts since before preschool. I entered a magnet middle school at ten,  and decided that I wanted to be a graphic designer by twelve. I attended a competitive magnet visual arts program in high school at fifteen. I took AP classes, was serious about my academics,  got straight A's, graduated class valedictorian at one of the top high schools in the country, and earned $60,000 in college scholarships. I moved away from home to a prestigious private art college. I served two internships, became an academic tutor, and finally, graduated in May of 2009 with a Bachelor's of Fines Arts in Visual Communications Design.

And in May of 2009, I was unemployed and without health insurance.

I'd had a kidney stone during my first semester of my junior year of college. I rode in an ambulance to the hospital. The ride, the CT scan, the IV had all been paid for by my father's insurance. It was the worst pain of my life up until then, but I didn't have to think about the cost of my illness, or fear for my life.

Now at 22, I was beginning my career. The recession had just hit. I worked as a substitute teacher, a cashier at a grocery store, and a digital graphics operator at a sportswear company. None of these jobs offered healthcare. My parents continued to pay out of pocket for a health insurance plan, that we soon found out, paid for very few things. (Despite having been told otherwise by the company at the time of purchase.) I moved back in with them while I tried to make my $45,000 worth of student loan payments.

In the Fall of 2011, I felt that terrible, but familiar butterfly pang in the lower flank of my back. I called in to work, my mother called the insurance company. It was another kidney stone. I rushed to the hospital and was screaming and vomiting uncontrollably by the time I entered the ER. I received a CT scan, was medicated, and sent home for the stone to pass.

A week later, the insurance company sent me a $6,000 bill. They had decided that my kidney stone was a pre-existing condition; and refused to cover any expenses including my seeking a urologist for follow-up care. I paid much of this myself, and applied for indigent charity from the hospital. There was no way that I, now 24, living at home, with $45,000 of student loan debt could take on this burden.

In addition, The insurance company soon decided not to cover my birth control pills, various primary doctor's visits, and my chiropractor. We had been told that this was all to be covered when purchasing the plan. They had miraculously lost all recordings of the conversations where these benefits were discussed.

A few months later, I felt that pang again and in fear of more bills, I laid on the cold porcelain floor of my bathroom, vomiting, screaming, and crying in agonizing pain for two hours. I passed that stone at home that night; but couldn't afford to see a urologist to know if there were anymore sitting inside of me, waiting. I had never felt so violated in my life. I returned to work the next day.

That January 1st, thanks to The Affordable Care Act, which I proudly call Obamacare; I was allowed to return to my father's health insurance plan through his work.  Nine days later, I felt that horrible pang again. I also noticed a yellowing to my palms. I thought should I go to the hospital? Could they possibly refuse to pay for my care again? But as my father's plan was through his employer, I felt confident and went to the hospital. There, the doctor found that my left kidney had been blocked off by a stone. It was going septic and the waste was backing up into my body and starting to shut down. I told him that I had wanted to seek out a urologist months before but because of my insurance company, I had gone without. He told me "Had you waited an hour or two, had you hesitated, you would have lost this kidney or have died." I was 24. I had emergency surgery to remove the blockage and though I was poisoned and weak, I had my kidney and I was alive.

On January 9, 2011 Obamacare saved my life. I am now able to seek a urologist and find ways to prevent future stones and manage them so they break up and do not obstruct my kidneys. I thank my elected representatives like my  Congressman Yarmuth, Minority House Leader Pelosi, and President Obama; whose selfless work has saved my life and so many others. I also thank those who have fought for better healthcare like the late Elizabeth Edwards, and those who will continue to fight because we deserve better.

I tell you this today because I lived. The law of the land does affect our everyday lives. It is the difference of dying and living, education and ignorance, eating and starving. America deserves the best, but we must stand up to corporate interests and unchecked greed. It is my dream that my generation will see universal healthcare in America.


Sarah B. Adkins

Sarah Adkins is a Graphic Designer in Louisville, Kentucky. She
received her BFA in Visual Communication Design from The Art Academy of Cincinnati in 2009. In addition to fighting for universal healthcare, she also lends her talents to coal ash landfill and mountain top removal issues. She is currently working both freelance and as a Junior Creative Designer, and hopes to have her own firm one day.