I found Mary Koch and John Andrist. They were older than Jimmy and me, but very similar. A newspaper background. A life-changing stroke which left John with Locked-in Syndrome. John and Jimmy had the same condition, but were living under different circumstances. John was cared for at home while Jimmy lived in nursing homes.
I relied on Mary and John during those years — an e-mail here and a note there. Each idea or encouragement helped me and Jimmy as we struggled through a health care maze, which often felt more like a war than a journey.
Jimmy died at 37. I called Mary that night. I couldn't share this news with her through an e-mail. John died at 75 almost two years later.
I met Mary on May 30, 2008, when I married Andy. She had kept in touch with me through the years and traveled to Custer, South Dakota. She wrote about our wedding. It's something Andy and I cherish.
Mary, who shared her caregiving journey through a weekly newspaper column, began writing "A Widow Bit" following John's death. You can find it here.
On Sept. 2, I received her latest installment "Confessions of a former reformer." I hope she will post it on her site soon.
The Institute of Medicine claims that each year more than 18,000 people in the U.S. die because they had no health insurance — that's higher than our annual homicide rate, Mary says.
Another point she makes:
I am tired of all the muck around the debate. I'm tired of all the crazy ideas being floated. If people are concerned about saving lives, we need to quit blaming the Mainstream Media, Congress and those people, who are yelling and foaming at the mouth at these town hall forums.
We need to think about those 18,000, who apparently die each year due to a lack of health insurance. How do we solve that problem?
I believe our leaders just need to step up and lead on this issue. Sometimes, leaders have to make difficult decisions without 100 percent support of the people. It happens in local government all the time.
A local leader has a vision for a new courthouse or administrative building to improve services. Taxpayers, who walk into the old buildings once a year, don't see the need for the new buildings or the tax increase to pay for it. I can think of a handful of county and city projects that were approved in communities with strong opposition. Were the projects needed? Yes. Did the opposition get over it? Eventually.
There will always be someone, who will disagree or say it won't work or say it shouldn't be done. If leaders listen to those people only, no new buildings or parks would ever be built.
I think there is enough ingenuity in this country to get this done — despite the chaos surrounding this issue. Our leadership needs to do what it is supposed to do — lead the way on this issue.