Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Donna Smith

Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation

August 27th, 2011 2:43 PM

The Hurricane’s Eye Wall: Andrew to Irene

As the early rain bands of Hurricane Irene inch into my neighborhood this morning, I am caught off guard by the flood of terror and emotion surfacing for me that is disproportionate to the impending threat (at least at this moment).  The memories of the pain and the fear spent riding out Hurricane Andrew on its northern eye wall more than 19 years ago followed by years of healthcare and financial storms has left me in an alternating state of stoic resolve and deep panic.

My beautiful sons, Dan and Russ, lived through the horrific pre-dawn hours of Andrew with us, and are now grown and living terrific lives of their own as accomplished, hard-working men.  Their siblings were already out of the house when Andrew hit us.  The four of us would survive together the early years of my husband’s worsening health and the end of his wage-earning capacity followed by deep financial trauma as I struggled to keep the financial ship afloat.

I think we all tucked the night of Andrew away somewhere deep inside and remained grateful we had survived it.  We moved away from Miami a few months later when water rushed uncontrollably from every electrical socket in our home and from the kitchen cupboards after roofing workers left for the weekend and didn’t batten down the hatches well enough.  We could take no more.

Each time we weathered the next life storm together, perhaps we were each able to draw on that night in comparison and know we’d get through it.  But the storms kept coming.  Bills kept coming.  Health issues kept coming.  The insurance costs kept rising.  The out-of-pocket costs kept rising.  We had been hopeful in the earliest post-Andrew, Clinton White House years that progress would be made on the health reform front.  But we all know that history and that her-story.  Neither Bill nor Hillary could (or would) fight that fight to a just conclusion, and the George W. Bush years that followed surely left healthcare concerns looming like the hurricane threat levels for millions of us.  And we are still nowhere near fixing this mess, in spite of the recent health reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

No matter how hard we tried together to batten down the hatches for ourselves, the rain came and drenched us.  We kept looking for the sun and the good times, and we did have those now and then.  But sometimes the crawling back up is just very difficult.  Health concerns and related financial fights can be like that.

I told Michael Moore as we sat on a boat in Miami harbor during SiCKO’s filming in 2007 that knowing what I know now and looking back on what happened in our lives, I might have done things very differently.  Michael listened patiently while I told him that once on a deep-sea fishing jaunt a friend took us on in the weeks immediately before Andrew, my husband hooked a big fish and was reeling it in before he started to have chest pains (angina).  I gave him a squirt of nitroglycerine under his tongue and urged him to let our friend land the fish lest he have a heart attack in the attempt.    He reluctantly gave up the rod with its treasure to our friend.  My husband never again got that chance to land such a catch but we sure did get the chance to confront plenty of significant life, health and financial traumas without much chance for good outcomes.  That day was one of the last best days of our lives  -- on that amazing deep sea fishing trip before Andrew hit and before all the other storms of the past two decades hot too .

We haven’t given up fighting our own issues, and we surely will not give up fighting for a healthcare model that provides a single standard of high quality care for all without financial barrier.  We will fight on.  But in having to fight that fight in our day-to-day lives to rebuild from financial collapse repeatedly and in fighting to make systemic change so the human right to healthcare is achieved, we have had little time and fewer resources to enjoy what should have been life’s pleasures.  Relationships have suffered.  Time has been lost, never to be regained.

But as I feel the deepening sense of sadness and worry in advance of Hurricane Irene and am forced back in my emotional past to what it felt like to be on Andrew’s eye wall, I do still often wonder – as I did with Michael Moore that day while filming SiCKO – if maybe I should have encouraged my guy to land that fish.  At least we’d have had those moments of joy.  I wonder today if Michael remembers me telling him that story.  It wasn’t one necessarily meant for a wider audience.  But somehow, as Irene bears down and as Andrew festers back up in my heart and my memory, it seems important to consider.  Land the fish, my friends.  Or it will only be the memories of terror in the eye wall that are left.

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law Donna Smith Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? Donna Smith We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa Nick Turse Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch Donna Smith The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Enron billionaire John Arnold thinks everyone should believe him when he says we've got to cut pensions because he's so incredibly rich: John...

Mar 5th
4:20 PM
Read More

More in David Sirota's continuing series on the billionaire takeover of PBS: More PBS conflict woes as activists move to eject David Koch from board of...

Mar 3rd
12:35 PM
Read More

Ukraine: One ‘Regime Change’ Too Many? Ray McGovern Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative...

Mar 2nd
9:25 PM
Read More

Latest from David Sirota on Enron billionaire John Arnold smuggling anti-pension propaganda into "neutral" institutions like PBS and now, the...

Mar 1st
12:58 PM
Read More

Second Guessing a Life: US Health Care System Robs Security and Human Dignity Donna Smith The dysfunction of the US health care system...

Feb 27th
1:40 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles