Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation
Four years ago, Tracy Dion Pierce, Sr., 37, died because we allowed him to. We stood collectively by while his insurance company delivered the news for us: no payment for bone marrow transplant. Tracy died at home in Mission, Kansas, with his beautiful wife Julie and his loving son Tracy, Jr., at his side. We let it happen.
We saw their story in SiCKO, but since then we’ve not put a halt to the carnage and the suffering. We’ve hedged our healthcare reform argument bets, and we’ve talked about pushing the agenda forward, but we’ve still allowed many, many Tracy’s to die.
Oh, scream and holler about how it was the evil insurance company or the system over which we have no direct control, but rest – or don’t rest – assured tonight that Tracy died at our hands, in our ignorant grasp of decency and without any substantial outcry.
Tonight his widow and his son still grieve and still cling to some notion that collectively we’ll care enough to rise up and stop this travesty from unfolding for another American family. Oh, the leaders of some movement will wage a comment or two or three, and they’ll even stand guard and demand justice for all activists, but not one of us are at a hospital tonight with another of the 123 American families saying an unnecessary goodbye to a loved one who is dying because we could not and did not fix the system and demand healthcare as a human right in this nation.
Of the stories I have watched more than 65 times as I have seen SiCKO with groups across the country, Julie’s and Tracy’s haunts me like no other. A young and vibrant family – living in the middle of America and doing all that we ask them to do to achieve the American dream – is left alone and without recourse as Tracy suffers and then dies.
Julie keeps on keeping on. She raises the beautiful son you see in my video clip. She stays a loyal and true friend to others who suffer. She hopes, by the God she still believes in, she still hopes of a better world for her son and a resting place next to her beautiful Tracy when her time on this earth comes to an end.
Somehow I wish there was a burial ground for those of us who were in SiCKO so that when our time comes to leave this earth, we can at least rest in the company of those who knew what it was like to tell our horrific stories only because it was all we had left to do. We had no way to recapture our own dreams and our hope and drive. We lost what mattered to us. We hoped for better and reached out in SiCKO. We didn’t get paid because that’s not what being in a documentary is all about and it isn’t what we wanted, and we didn’t get rich or famous or become more than what we had been in our pre-SiCKO lives.
We prayed together that the time burned on that film and the stories we shared would somehow move our nation to a place where healthcare as a human right was a better course of action and fewer families would suffer when help was so readily available. Instead, we’re listening to the debate rage on as more Tracy’s die and more Julie’s grieve and more SiCKO’s gather. That isn’t why we offered up our stories.
Rest in peace, dear Tracy. We did not know you except through Julie and through Tracy, Jr., and through SiCKO. Julie is beautiful as always – and still in love with you as she always was and ever will be. Tracy, Jr., is a wonderful young man with an easy smile and a marvelous hug for all who need it. You would be so proud of them – they reflect all that you would have reflected through them.
We fight on. We dream on. We care on. Until the day when we rest with you and share that each of us did all that we could to honor your sacrifice for SiCKO and for millions of people to open their hearts and minds to what should be our reality – healthcare as a basic human right in America in 2011 – until that day we bid you peace. We labor on.
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