Monday, March 22, 2010

where were you when America came to its senses..

and Obama's health care reform passed?

I was in Chevy's (Mexican chain restaurant, one of my guilty pleasures) in Auburn (Historic gold mining town in the Sierra foothills, on the route from Tahoe to San Francisco).

Before I continue this post, since I'm sure you are on tenderhooks, the weekend with our new friends was lovely. I very much enjoyed their company, and I sincerely hope they felt the same way.

The only really embarrassing kid meltdown moment happened when they were not around to witness it. When we spend a day at the ski resort we don't respect the childrens' nap schedule. Geekygirl can do without a nap, at four she is outgrowing them, but Geekyboy does need a good two hours kip after lunch. However napping at 1pm doesn't really fit in with a day of skiing. So instead of a nap we give him some juice, and some M&M's, and he breaks on through without his sleep until we leave the resort, usually at around two thirty. He is a trooper, our Geekyboy. I think our new friends were rather taken aback by our laissaiz faire attitude to the daily rituals of the toddler, and I know I would have been too. When Geekygirl was our only child, her naps were sacrosanct.

It was such a beautiful day on Saturday that we we really pushed the envelope. Geekydaddy and our guest daddy had pulled the last ski shift of the day. The other little boy and his mum had sensibly gone home for his nap, and I was left managing my sleep deprived, sugar filled kids. I had taken them outside and they were running around the outdoor bar/restaurant at the lodge. It all started to go haywire as they both ran in opposite directions, into the racks of skis, down toward the parking lot, oblivious to my instructions and pleadings. I ended up putting an angry, defiant Geekygirl into time out, and afterwards she was so enraged by my discipline and so determined to gain control over the situation that she said "I'm going to show everyone my bottom". And she did. She pulled down her leggings and mooned all the folks enjoying a nice apres ski beer.

It was actually quite an effective tactic on her part, as I ended up laughing too hard to parent properly. Disaster was averted as the band started playing and I danced around to the bluegrass music with the children. I'm sure we made quite a sight, clopping about in ski boots, but all my self conciousness was completely obliterated by the bare bum incident. It made for an entertaining dinner story for our guests, after we returned everyone home safely to the cabin!

But back to Chevy's and healthcare.

As we waited for our table, both Geekygirl and Geekyboy stared wide eyed at a fellow patron. This man had a hook instead of a hand. It wasn't quite a 'captain hook' style limb, it had a simple pincer like function, but it was no modern prosthetic. I didn't stare so obviously at the poor guy, but his condition prompted me to wonder why he had a plain old hook fixture instead of a true artificial hand.  A man I knew back home in the UK had lost his forearm and hand in an accident, and he had sported, over the years I knew him, a progressively more sophisticated series of "Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi" black gloved artifical hands. I wonder if a lack of decent health insurance had left this man with a hook instead of a discreet atrificial limb that would have made him less of a spectacle. I don't recall seeing anyone in the UK with a metal hook for an arm in recent years, and I know that the one armed person I knew wasn't at all wealthy so I"m assuming that the NHS covers prosthetic limbs.

After we were seated and eating I noticed the kids again staring, fixated, at a fellow customer. This time it was a woman in the booth opposite. I found myself staring too this time, at a woman who was clearly trying to turn herself into Malibu Barbie. Skinny, toffee coloured and with unfeasibly large, extremely eye catching, perfectly round breasts. She was wearing hot pants and a teeny tiny shirt which was straining heroically to keep her covered; clothing scanty even for California in March. I  don't think I've ever seen a woman quite this distorted by surgery in the UK, either. but I have heard rumor that quite frivolous body enhancing surgeries can be obtained on the NHS.

It did amuse me that the children responded with the same rapt gaze of horror and wonder to the woman with  blimp-like breasts as they did to the man with the hook-like arm.

After I returned to the car and flipped my phone to facebook, I heard the news that Obama and Pelosi had gotten the votes to get the health reform bill passed. The contrast between the two very differently enhanced people we had seen in the restaurant started a debate in my head about healthcare; about the needs of individuals versus the cost to the taxpayer. Should everyone be entitled to the best in artificial limbs? Should health insurance cover cosmetic "enhancements"? What about IVF?

This new legislation is, in my opinion, a huge step in the right direction despite its flaws, finally dragging the USA up into the club of truly civilized nations that meet the medical needs of all their citizens.

As medicine and its technology advances though, these questions of cost, benefit and moral obligation are only going to get thornier, both here in the US and around the world. It is going to be an interesting few years.