I could write entire dissertations on why losing the benefits of the Affordable Care Act could absolutely destroy the lives of myself, my family, and many people I know. Instead, I offer to you an amusing recounting of a time before the ACA. A time without insurance.
A time when I lost a fight with a pickle jar.
Seven years ago I was working 17-hour shifts in the concept lab at a factory. Every penny I had was going to lawyer fees for a nasty custody battle and coffee enough for the commute at the time, so I was staying on my mother’s couch. I was working through a temp agency, and as such I had no benefits- no insurance, no time off, no safety net of any sort. But I was young and healthy and doing what needed to be done.
I think it was a Sunday; those were the most likely days for me to be home in the afternoon. I was kneeling, white-knight or proposal style, in front of the fridge, looking for a snack. My mother had recently been to Sam’s Club, so the biggest problem was focusing my eyes enough to figure out what was in there. I was probably reaching for cheese- it seems likely enough.
You know those giant, industrial-sized glass jars full of whole pickles? We had a full one, never even opened. It fell. It landed with a loud crack, at an angle, on my knee cap.
The glass was not what had cracked.
After a moment of mind-searing pain, I checked for damage. No glass, no blood, and it hurt like hell but I could walk. Ibuprofen and ice seemed a good fix, and I ate a pickle out of spite. (I don’t actually remember if I ate a pickle, but it seems like a thing I would do.) The world goes on.
Only, it hurt worse the next day. It was not as swollen and bruised as expected, but it was in bad shape; it did not feel terribly supportive. I called a few nurse friends, glad that they understood the reason I could not pay to go to a clinic- the prices quoted would have been over $500 for x-rays, due up front. They all had the same conclusion, though they assured me that they could not truly diagnose. That damn pickle jar had almost certainly shattered my knee cap.
I ought to have seen a doctor. Instead, on my next paycheck, I bought a brace and an ace bandage, and a friend gifted me a perfectly sized if somewhat phallic looking wooden walking stick.
I was in moderate pain constantly for years. Severe pain with storms or weather changes, or walking too much, or stretching wrong. Running and leg exercises are still hard, it is not uncommon for my knee to give out if I push it at all, and weather changes still make it radiate in pain.
At this point I have insurance, but it is too late to undo years of being untreated. I will always deal with this pain due to a lack of health insurance and a damn pickle jar.