Sam's Story: Another Human Tragedy in the Health-Care Debate

By Leah Garrett 8-27-2009

This week many of you heard the story of Sam.* Sam was a 21-year-old young man from a hard-working family. Over the course of several weeks in July he experienced extreme stomach pains. Thinking they were just the flu and because he was uninsured, he did not seek medical attention. Finally, he went to the emergency room and within 48 hours all systems in his body shut down, one by one. Doctors determined his cause of death to be acute pancreatitis and diabetes, which was previously undiagnosed. His family is devastated.

If he had health insurance, he would have seen a doctor sooner.

As you know, Sojourners is working with our partners to make sure Congress and our nation know that faith leaders do not want to be misrepresented. We believe there is a moral perspective in providing a health-care system that is available and affordable for all. Because of misinformation and fear-building in this debate, the decision is being reduced to a matter of budgets and "death panels."

Sam was one of 46 million people in our nation without health insurance. We share his story because he was a real human life. With a large, loving family and a passion for social justice issues, he was preparing for youth ministry. The day he died he was planning to move to start a new job. His story touched my life because one of his family members is my friend, neighbor, and fellow church member. She felt that including his story in the health-care debate was appropriate because of his passion for social justice.

Sam's story also touched my life because I believe that behind the budget concerns and fears there are millions of people with a similar struggle. About 18,000 people die each year because they had no access to health care. Yes, perhaps they can show up at the emergency room for treatment. But that's not a sufficient option. Often it is too late. With health care insurance, preventative care can be just one key to saving lives.

This debate over health care has a face -- in fact, it has 46 million faces. Look around you -- are they your friends, neighbors, and fellow church members?

Leah Garrett is the associate director of individual giving for Sojourners.

To learn more about health-care reform, click here to visit Sojourners' Health-Care Resources Web page.

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