It is sometimes tempting to call the workings of our corporate world evil. A ninety year-old woman, until her recent broken hip fiercely independent, lives out her last days in a bare bones hospital ward where her needs are ignored, though she is kept miserably alive, her tab paid by Medicaid. There may or may not be a government agency that can help her. Sekhnet and I lack legal standing to advocate for her, though I got two numbers today that may allow Margaret to advocate for herself.
The ACA, which right-wing zealots and “Birthers” are still bent on abolishing as an illegitimate “Negro” plan, mandates that low income citizens buy private insurance on their state’s health exchange. New York State of Health Marketplace was designed by Kafka, during an LSD nightmare. The agency is run by an unaccountable political appointee director (Donna Frescatore) who has made it her agency’s policy for no worker to divulge her name. They have no effective method of correcting their many errors, the wait for an “appeal” is months’ long.
A more vexing collection of useless, low-paid motherfuckers I have never encountered, and I am a veteran of Adult Protective Services, the New York Housing Authority and the Housing Court’s Guardian ad Litem program. I have seen hideous bureaucracies. The unaccountable agency entrusted with providing health care to low income citizens in New York State is by far the worst.
Had a nice chat today with a guy from NYS of Health Marketplace Appeals, Patrick, very patient– though even he had his limits in that regard. My appeal should be conducted over the phone in a month or two, after that, presumably, I should be allowed to pay only what the law requires and not twice what the law requires, as I have been paying since an erroneous denial in January.
While talking to a social worker at the Department for the Aging, who spoke on the QT since I lacked legal standing to have the conversation on behalf of a mere friend, I had a call from Sekhnet. Sekhnet has been overwhelmed and tearful lately, in part due to the steroids she’s taking for her breathing troubles. She has been worried about my potentially dangerous kidney disease, and the fact that virtually my entire vegetarian diet is composed of foods, I learned yesterday, very bad for compromised kidneys. She’s been crying because Skaynes, our beloved cat, had test results the other day that showed his one kidney is in trouble, this in addition to a flare up of pancreatitis.
I broke away from the kind, long-winded social worker, put her on a brief hold, and took Sekhnet’s call. She was sobbing. “Liz is dead,” she told me. I expressed my sorrow, told her who I was talking to and said I’d call her right back.
Liz was the long-time partner of Tony, a gregarious fellow we met while he stood smoking cigarettes in front of Sekhnet’s building. It emerged that Tony lived on the second floor with a shy, agoraphobic woman named Liz, a lover of cats (they hosted two former strays, Sid and Gus), and that it would be great for us to get together some time. Tony explained that he’d have to work on Liz, and his work seemed to be a success. We had dinner, after researching what Liz, a diabetic, could safely eat. I think it was garbanzo bean pasta we finally made. (To be strictly accurate, this dinner occurred after we returned from our trip).
Shortly after we first chatted with Liz and Tony, Skaynes began vomiting frequently and rarely coming out of his bed. We were scheduled to leave for a two week trip to Israel in a few days. Liz, Tony and our old friends’ son Avram generously stepped in to take care of Skaynes. They wrangled the cantankerous cat into his carrier and ferried him back and forth to the vet for treatments. The treatments were daily for a week or more. Skaynes recovered while we were in Israel, we got their medical updates by email. Liz and Tony (and the indefatigable Avram) had saved his life, and enabled our long-planned trip to happen, and we felt very grateful.
We got together with them another couple of times. Then they were having troubles, Tony had resumed drinking, after years on the wagon and in AA. Liz had a past that included drug addiction and she could not tolerate this relapse. There was tension. Tony moved out, moved back in, was on a job in New Jersey when he had a fatal heart attack.
Liz affected an air of stoicism, but the tragedy made her no more zealous about checking her diabetes monitor. She’d been found in a diabetic coma before. Tony said the beeping of her monitor annoyed her and she’d often turn the machine off rather than do what the beeping was reminding her to do.
After Tony died, Liz lived alone with Sid and Gus, in the apartment owned by her mother. Her mother lives in Florida and needs money, is in the process of selling Liz’s longtime home. Packages sat outside Liz’s apartment door for days at a time. I followed up with Sekhnet who contacted Liz. She was reassured when Liz finally returned a call, sent her some adorable animal emails (Liz volunteered at a cat shelter) with a funny note and also inquired about Skaynes. More packages outside her door the other day. Sekhnet could get no answer from Liz lately. She convinced a neighbor with the key to have a look today.
The neighbor discovered Liz’s dead body. One of the cats was sitting next to her dead body. The cats had not been fed for several days. The last email from Liz, about a week ago, noted that a dog will sit sadly by their master’s dead body and starve, too depressed to eat. A cat will do the same, until they get unbearably hungry and start eating the dead master’s face. The neighbor fed the cats and called Sekhnet.
When I got off the phone with the social worker I called Sekhnet back and did my best to soothe her, though there is not that much real soothing to be given under terrible circumstances like this. The world can be a cold and cruel place and one must count oneself fortunate only to be fighting with corporate cocksuckers, while Death, smug and implacable, waits with the infinite patience of one who has never been denied, to snuff out your last breath.