Biff America column: Carrying Ginny: A matter of life or death
February 7, 2017
"I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me."
With tears in our eyes, Ellie and I swayed to the music and sung along with the local band. Like Woddy Guthrie, we, too, had roamed and rambled across this amazing nation and felt ownership of this great country — a great country, but one we both felt needed improvement.
The day of President Donald Trump's inauguration was a bad day for me. I was livid, and it wasn't even DJT's fault.
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To be clear, I'm shocked and disappointed that he is now my POTUS, but I also accept the fact that he is. Trump is my commander-in-chief, and I hope I was wrong about him and wish him well. In addition, I have faith in our system of checks and balances and the commitment and energy of our citizens to remain vigilant and involved.
We woke up that morning and purposely left the radio off and stayed off the internet. Luckily, I did leave my phone on. When you are semi-retired and work as often as Kelly Ann Conway's conscience, it is difficult to refuse a favor from someone to whom you owe many.
The voice on the phone asked, "Are you busy? I need some help." I had it on speakerphone, so my mate gave me serious stink-eye when I lied and said, "No plans, what's up?" (I was wearing ski clothing and the car was packed for a backcountry day.)
"I need help carrying a lady into a car." (No, it wasn't Bill Cosby calling) "Car, what car?" I asked. "The one that is in your garage."
I wasn't going to refuse; if my friend was asking, then it must be important. But for my mate's sake, I asked, "Well, we were heading out to ski. Is it important?"
"It is a matter of life and death."
How often do you hear those words?
Now, I'm going to change some names and basic circumstances to protect these people's privacy, but the gist of what I'm about to write is true and true in far too many cases.
Virginia is in her mid-80s. She worked her entire life either as a secretary or a mother. Her husband worked his entire life and had passed away about 10 years ago, leaving Ginny alone in an empty home. She picked up occasional work into her 70s but since then has been living on Social Security and relying on Medicare.
She is fairly self-sufficient but does have a few friends who will periodically check in on her. She hates to be a bother, but on Inauguration Day, she called one of them and whispered, "I hate to bother you, but I can't breathe."
When my pal arrived at her home about 10 minutes later, her lips were blue and she was in serious oxygen deprivation. She was literally on the brink of suffocation; she needed to get to a hospital but became agitated when he suggested calling an ambulance.
When my pal insisted, Ginny kept bringing up the time she fell and broke her arm and how the difference between what Medicare paid and her finial bill made a huge dent in her Social Security, which she used to pay her living expenses. The expenditure of oxygen of that sentence alone almost caused her to pass out. Ginny knew she needed help. I'm guessing she knew the seriousness. But what I know is she felt an ambulance was a luxury she could not afford.
Rather than argue, my friend decided that, if I left immediately, it would be quicker and less upsetting to drive her the eight miles to the emergency room himself.
"Ginny, this is my friend Jeffrey; he is going to help carry you to the car."
I was amazed how light Ginny was. She could not have weighed more than 80 pounds. And I do have to say I carried more than my share of the weight. To make a long story short, we got Ginny into the car, my pal drove her to the emergency room and she is doing much better. That is the good news.
Taking Care of Our Elders
The bad news is why a sweet old lady has to make the decision of whether she can afford the care to keep herself alive. To be clear, I don't blame our new POTUS … yet. But I do blame every POTUS, congressman/woman, senator and all of us who voted for them. We live in a wealthy nation where old, young and families have to balance what is needed with what is affordable to remain alive. It is done successfully in many other countries.
I understand and support those who took to the streets to protest the day after the election. But as well as protesting our next POTUS, we all would be well served to ask in a nation that spends almost $600 billion a years on defense: Could we not allocate more so that our most at risk don't have to choose between being carried in an ambulance or carried by me? If Ginny were any heavier, then I might have gotten a hernia, and God knows what the co-pay on that would be.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com. Biff's book "Mind, Body, Soul," is available at local shops and bookstores or shop.holpublications.com.
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