Healthcare on the road

You’ve all gotten to see the good stuff on the blog—food reviews and pictures of wineries and oceans and mountains and our dear sweet pup, Jolene. Can we take a break from Instagram-worthy stuff to talk about healthcare? I know it’s not as much fun, but it’s worth talking about. 

As I write this blog post, I am sitting in the parking lot of Maine’s Urgent Care Center near Freeport. Miracle is inside being tested for COVID (which we are both 99% sure she doesn’t have) and, more importantly, getting her oxygen levels tested. See, a few weeks ago we developed a rash—me first, then Miracle. We figured it might be poison ivy or chiggers or something of the like. One sunny morning in Rhode Island, after having the rash for a few days, we both woke up with headaches and nausea. I drove us do the urgent care where it was deemed not-COVID. It’s a virus, they said; it’ll run its course and you’ll get better. We later determined that we had both contracted West Nile virus. (And before any of you smartasses decide to say, “Well, that’s what you get for going on the road,” let it be known that we likely contracted it when we were still at home in Bellbrook—where they have found numerous West Nile-carrying mosquitos. So there.) 

My rash started clearing up slowly. Very slowly. So did Miracle’s rash. However, she started to feel run down and had a hard time simply walking to the shower house and back without being out of breath. Today she woke up and could hardly eat without panting. We went to the urgent care. They ran an EKG. They did a chest x-ray. We paid copays. They confirmed that it was still the virus working its way through. 

This is our third clinic visit. Our first one came in West Virginia after Miracle was bitten by a dog. We’ve both been stung by bees. What we’re doing is living in the bus where things happen. For most people who are unemployed—whether by choice or not—a clinic visit would be devastating. So they either don’t go and things get worse or they go and bear the economic fallout, which can be brutal. (And before anyone says that the other hospital-goers actually have to bear that brunt, I say bullshit. Only in our country does healthcare have debt-inducing costs. Treating healthcare as a business rather than a human right has led to inflated costs.) 

Two things have made healthcare in van life work for us: First, I had a Health Retirement Account from my fifteen years as a state employee. It allows me to reimburse certain expenses, which is nice, although there are lots and lots of restrictions and it makes me float the bill while they process the claim. That’s fine for a $10 prescription, but it hurts when an MRI bill for $500 comes in. The second thing that makes it possible for us to hit the road is the generosity of the Jan Michalski Foundation in Switzerland as they are covering our healthcare costs over the next fourteen months. In 2019, as a visiting writer at the Foundation, the writers from all over the world would ask me why I didn’t try to make a go out of writing full-time. My honest answer came down to the precarious nature of life in America sans healthcare. One writer simply called the uniquely American predicament “barbaric.” I agreed. So when we decided to strike out on the road that we would ask the Jan Michalski Foundation for help with healthcare and they agreed. 

As it turns out, Miracle has a pleurisy that should clear up in a week’s time. The doctor told her to take it easy. The bill will be sent to our home address. 

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