Dear Democratic Congress and President Obama:
I was diagnosed with a chronic debilitating illness when I was 19. Every year after that, I have worried intensely about how would I get the health insurance. A stranger saved my life with a kidney transplant 14 years ago. Until a few days ago, I could never stop thinking about the extraordinary medical costs I would owe.
A few days ago, when the health care bill passed, the weight I have felt for so long seems lighter! Thank you. I am now 57 years old, and lucky.
Our oldest son was born with a congenital heart defect. He was one of the youngest patients to undergo an angioplasty procedure at that time. He was 14 months old. In the 1980s, my husband and I, with our two toddlers, stood in front of a committee of California state representatives to ask for children's health care. We were seeking medical coverage for our son. He is now a healthy 24-year-old who has not been able to afford or find health insurance because of his pre-existing heart condition. He and his brother are entrepreneurs, opening a small T-shirt business last year. While they have not been able to get a bank loan, now he can get health care.
In all these years, my husband bore the weight of providing for us with skilled labor work as best as he could. As you know, the skilled labor field rolls up and down. A sailor as a young man, he gave up the sea, working in mechanics to stay with our young and fragile family. In the late ’90s, the last heavy industrial factory in San Francisco — where my husband worked — was closed and moved to Mexico. He is a merchant marine again on ships, tugboats and with the bar pilots, dispatched by the union. Injuries to a sailor are common in this dangerous and extreme career, and he has had his share. Now he has been struck with liver cancer. At 57 he is fighting for his life and is on the liver transplant list. I am not sure how we can be helped by your historic legislation yet, but because you have passed health care for us, I believe we have a fighting chance to get help. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
You did it. You heard us. You have courage. And Barack Obama is the most hopeful, thoughtful, generous president we have had in my lifetime.
(Leavey lives in Napa.)