Julia Halvas | Staff Writer
The second I bite into the greasy Olive Garden breadsticks and a warm bowl of penne, I know it’s game over for my stomach. Since I was small, I have suffered from heart burn … or at least I thought.
For so long I learned to deal with this condition and would brush any old stomach ache off as nothing. That was until Nov. 18. I found myself back at Olive Garden, munching on the same greasy breadstick and same bowl of pasta. I went about my day and sure enough, the stomach ache came, but this time it was different. The pain was stronger. I couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t breathe. Something was wrong.
I immediately rushed to the emergency room where they told me that my gallbladder was severely infected and needed to be taken out immediately. I was only 18, and this surgery was very uncommon for someone my age.
It’s been almost two months, and I look back on the day of my surgery as if it was yesterday. I was so scared to go through with it, but I always wonder what would’ve happened if I had just brushed off my pain again and assumed it was another typical bad case of heartburn.
According to CBS News, nearly 40% of Americans chose not to receive medical care in 2022 for countless reasons. For so long, the American medical system has been working hard to find cures for new diseases and to better the lives of people across the globe. With that said, there are many challenges presented with the care of patients, starting with preventative healthcare.
The Cleveland Clinic calls it “iatrophobia” or the fear of doctors. Many people fear less about the physical exam or testing done and more about the results, like “If my stomach hurts does that mean my appendix burst” or “I’ve had headaches for a week, is it brain cancer?”
All of these questions begin to run through the minds of patients because, let’s face it, it is human nature to always jump to the worst case scenario. When medicine and the health of people begins to come into play, sometimes people feel as if not knowing is better than putting a timer on their life, even if catching a disease or condition early can actually extend their life expectancy.
Even though there is always that looming fear of essentially feeling like your life has an expiration date, NPR reports that doctors’ life expectancy diagnoses for many patients are usually incorrect.
“In one study of terminally ill patients, just 20% of physician predictions were accurate,” Amanda Aronczyk, author of the article wrote.
Even though many people choose to not receive medical care, it is important to also acknowledge the 26 million people who do not have the money to afford insurance or some type of healthcare coverage.
While programs like Medicaid do exist, they can only benefit Americans between the ages of 19-64 that have incomes below 133% of the Federal Income Poverty Guidelines. Out of those 26 million uninsured adults, only about 7 million actually qualify for Medicaid.
The price and money of healthcare is a driving factor in people not going to the doctor. People want to get yearly check-ups, but financially they have to choose between the doctors or possibly the very food on their table. Also, even when people have to receive emergency care, they drown in medical bills.
After my surgery, I got a copy of my bill and really got to see how they broke everything down. There were so many charges that people would never think of. There were charges for seeing particular doctors (that I didn’t even request to see or remember speaking with), there were charges for labs and charges for medication that they insisted I needed.
And don’t get me started on the surgery … let’s just say, the numbers had commas (plural). I couldn’t even imagine needing emergency surgery and then being told I had to pay tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.
I think it is important to discuss the challenges of preventative healthcare. Whether it is the fear of doctors or even financial reasons, there needs to be more education and discussion about plans that can be implemented to overcome fears regarding money or diagnosis.
First, doctors have the medical knowledge to start a conversation. Having doctors not only advocate for preventative healthcare for patients who may be a little anxious about going for their yearly check-up, but for the people who cannot legitimately afford a yearly-check up, is important.
Also, insurance companies trying to work closely with people to give them the best healthcare options is another big way to improve the number of illnesses caught preemptively. Even though making money for both insurance companies and doctors is important, we should be able to find ways to aid people in getting the insurance they need. A person’s life is worth more than any sum of money.
As for me, I will not take my past experience in the ER lightly. As a biology pre-med major, I will try to work my hardest to advocate for preventative healthcare. I want people to have a right to a yearly check-up and to their life-saving insulin or epi-pen. I want people to know how life saving preventative healthcare can be. I want to be a factor in extending people’s life expectancies, even by a day.
Things cannot change with just me. Change needs to be implemented which is why it is so important to continue to advocate for what is right.
Together we can work out solutions and begin to compromise in everyone’s best interest. And for those on the other side: Go see your doctor! Because let’s face it, no one deserves to eat a bowl of pasta, be in excruciating pain, and worry about if they’re on their deathbed or if they can afford to see a doctor.