Mika xL Column 11, March
by Mika via xL Repubblica
In life certain things happen which make you realise that no one can or should exist on their own.
On 10th October last year, my older sister Paloma had an accident after a house warming party in her new apartment, which she had only moved into the day before. The move had been an important one. Born with a disability which left one side of her body significantly weaker than the other, she had resisted moving out for a while but had finally made the move. Having helped prepare her flat for the housewarming, my brother and I stayed for the party. The mood was simple and friendly and I went home at midnight having had a great time.
At 5am I was woken up by screaming and banging at my front door. Paloma had fallen out of her fourth floor bedroom window and landed on the railings below. I ran out of bed and to her apartment. I could have killed anyone in my way, but when I saw her I stepped back. I didn’t want her to know I was there. Surrounded by ambulance and firemen, she lay crumpled on the railings, the tops of which had gone through her body in four different places. I could see one coming out of her leg. She looked so broken but was amazingly still conscious. I hid with my brother in an ambulance and called my family around the world to have them come home. It was my father’s 60th birthday, and when I called him in Dubai, he thought I was calling from the airport and had come to surprise him. It took almost two hours to remove Paloma from the railings. Unable to lift her off them, for fear of too much bleeding, the railings were sawn off and kept inside her until they could be removed in an operating theatre. She was conscious the whole time. I watched paramedics lay her on a stretcher and anaesthetise her in the street. By the time I touched her face she was asleep. The neighbourhood was awake and in silent shock. Paloma was taken by the helicopter unit to the Royal London Hospital, where over the course of 14 hours surgeons managed to save her life. Incredibly, the railings which had caused horrendous damage were the one thing that saved her. Having been kept from falling into the basement she incurred no damage to her head and brain.
Today, Paloma is still in hospital. Once she is eventually discharged she will be transferred to a residential rehab where she will re-learn to walk and encourage the nerves in her legs and hips to recover. Her full recovery will probably take years. Growing up in France and the UK, I have always known a nationalised health care system. But my sister’s accident made me truly value it. We are cared for from cradle to grave by a healthcare system that feels like it has always been and always will be there. To say that we take it for granted, I think is an understatement.
Having an American father, we have always had US passports. If this accident had happened in normal circumstances over there, my parents would have had to sell their house by now. The US Government sends troops abroad to ‘defend’ its citizens’ rights but leaves its people ‘defenceless’ when they’re injured at home. If you fall out of a window in America – you’re on your own. This is terrifying. Another family member who fainted in LA a year ago, was treated in the nearby Cedar Sinai hospital for 14 hours, only to leave with a $19,000 bill that she is still paying. We have never grown up with health insurance and my sister as a UK resident is proud of the fact that she did not need to.
As budget cuts are made in Europe, the two sectors under threat which are of the greatest importance are strangely the ones that we take most for granted – education and healthcare. Has my sister’s experience made me appreciate the UK more? Without a doubt! I can’t understand how the USA got itself to a point where healthcare is reliant on private insurance companies concerned more with profit than treatment. Obama’s healthcare reforms are a step in the right direction, but what will it take to not only change the system but the entire culture a country has for taking care of its people. Many Americans see nationalised healthcare as a foreign threat to the private system they have grown up with. Looking at America, it is much easier to go private than it is to go back to being free and public. With the second best healthcare system in the world – , despite all the problems that we hear of, on a daily basis – Italy, like the UK, has a lot to defend; and more than ever, it looks like something we may have to do in the future.Translation in Progress
by Mika via xL Repubblica