Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation
Every year for the past four years around this time, Nataline Sarkisyan’s parents build toward an unimaginable anniversary filled with sorrow and pain. On December 20, 2007, they lost their only daughter, 17-year-old Nataline to corporate greed and insurance company cruelty. Nataline died after the insurance giant CIGNA initially denied coverage for a liver transplant then reversed the decision when protest pressure (from the family’s extended Armenian community, the California Nurses Association and an on-line firestorm of outrage) and the potential for public relations damage grew too much. But the reversal came too late. Nataline was dead.
Wendell Potter, who was a high-level CIGNA employee at the time of Nataline’s death and who became a whistleblower about the health insurance industry following that time, wrote about Nataline in his award winning book Deadly Spin. The first time Nataline’s family came face-to-face with Potter was shown on Dateline NBC in December 2009.
The family’s struggle to make sense of this atrocity and to make sure other families do not have to bury their children due to these sorts of insurance company decisions led to the formation of the Nataline Sarkisyan Foundation. Rather than sinking into the despair that could easily have come from such a loss, Nataline’s mother, Hilda, has almost single-handedly lifted Nataline up as her “angel” guiding the advocacy for the changes that might have saved her daughter.
But every year, that anniversary day – that horrible day – just keeps coming back to open the scars and tear at the heart. Nataline is dead. She is not coming back, and the memory of her beautiful smile, her stunning eyes (just like her mother’s) and her dreams of giving beauty to the world must wash over the hurt and comfort those for whom no comfort without her can ever be enough.
So, on this anniversary, Nataline’s mom will be as she has been for the past four years on December 20th – quiet and alone with her thoughts and her memories.
But in the fashion that has become Hilda’s style since then, she will turn tragedy into action again just two days prior to that anniversary. We can all help with that. We can use these moments to pause with the Sarkisyan family and remember why we all fight against corporate greed, and we can help.
Let’s Occupy Love and Occupy Joy with this family. For Nataline, for Hilda and Koko, and for all of our children.
Nataline’s mother sent me the release below:
On December 18, 2011, The Nataline Sarkisyan Foundation is hosting a toy drive benefiting Children’s Hospital LA.
“My daughter, Nataline, passed away at the age of 17 due to our corrupted health care system. She was denied a liver transplant by our insurance company. They chose profit over life.
“Nataline's 4th annual memorial is just days away. In her honor, we like to make a child's Christmas Merrier. Putting a smile on a child's little face who is suffering with all kinds of illnesses during this Holiday season is what would make Nataline proud. With the support of our family, friends and community, we have collected hundreds of toys. We look forward to helping make hundreds of children smile. 'Tis the season for giving and we shall give to all.
“The following are the details of the event.
Date and time: Sunday, December 18, 2011, 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., then at 1:00 p.m. Caravan to Children’s Hospital in LA.
Location: 162 N. Sierra Madre Blvd in Pasadena, CA
The Hye Riders are partnering with us serving food and drinks before the caravan takes off.
Looking forward to hearing from you soon. If you cannot attend, please donate. Thank you.”
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