I live in New York. I am a comedian, writer and actor. My day job is blogging for VH1.com. I write about the silly things celebrities and pop stars do, so you know...God's work.
You may have seen my writing on many other reputable websites (The Huffington Post, Hello Giggles, xojane.com, The Hairpin, Splitsider, The FW, etc.). I also write crazy blogs about Game of Thrones, Magneto and Jeff Goldblum.
I don't want to talk about anything with you except Star Trek Into Darkness.
When I was 22, I almost died of the flu.
I was living abroad—alone—in London. I shared a house with about 10 other ex-pats, but very few of them spoke very good English, and the English they did speak was often used to mock and berate me. So, essentially, I kept to myself.
I spent about four days in bed. I tossed and turned. I nibbled on bread and drank hot water with honey and lemon. One night, I got a fever. I never get fevers. My entire body surged with boiling pain. Breathing became difficult. My thoughts dulled. My heart raced. Somehow it broke, but before it did, I had the chilling thought that I could die alone in a locked room in a foreign country and that my body might not be discovered by my roommates until weeks after the fact.
I avoided going to the doctor’s because I didn’t have a physician in London. The NHS system was hazy to me. All I had heard from co-workers were horror stories of being made to wait weeks to see a physician while ill. Also, having been the daughter of a nurse, I’d been taught that most colds and flus can’t be helped with prescriptions anyway, so why waste the time and money to go to the doctor? However, because the fever scared the shit out of me, I finally made a visit to the local emergency room to find out what was wrong.
I waited for four hours to be seen. In that time, I saw homeless men and women verbally abuse the nurses. I saw drunk men wander in and demand to be seen for hangovers. It wasn’t charming. It kind of made the British hospital system look like shit because none of these people could be legally turned away until they got violent.
When I was finally seen, it took my doctor less than three minutes to basically tell me that it was a virus and that I just had to rest up as I had been. I nodded, gathered my things and weakly moved to the door.
Because I was so alone, so afraid and so beaten down by illness, I just asked what came naturally to me. I said, “Oh, where do I go now for my bill?”
The doctor slowly lowered his clip board. His eyes narrowed in scorn. His reply came clearly, and couched in condescension. “In our country, we don’t believe people should have to pay for medical treatment.”
It was pretty much the worst thing anyone has ever said to me about the United States of America because I didn’t have a retort. I didn’t have an intellectual reason for it. I didn’t have a moral reason for why it was the case. I couldn’t even compare the history and philosophies of our nations, and explain why legislation evolved in the way that it did. I could only feel shame.
A few days later I was back in the hospital because I’d scratched my cornea while convalescing and since there was no one to help change sheets while I was sick, germs got into my eye and I contracted a horrific case of pink eye. This time, I was given a prescription for an eye gel that would help me keep my eyes open. I took a deep breath of panic imagining how much the gel would cost. 20 pounds? 50 pounds? 100? It was a little over a fiver and I got an embarrassed apology from the pharmacist because it was so “expensive”.
I’m saying all this because I’ve experienced a lot of different sides of health care. I was covered as a kid under my father’s government employee plan. I’ve been uninsured and insured in the United States as a young adult. And yes, I’ve experienced the taxes and the craziness of Britain’s NHS system. None of these are perfect. In terms of service, Britain’s was probably the worst, but it was also the best. It was the only one where when I was stranded, sick, impoverished and alone, I could count on for medical attention.
Well, it was the only one like that until today.
We’ll see what happens next. It’s not going to be pretty or perfect, but now I can remember what that doctor said to me and not feel ashamed. I can say, “Hey, we’re working on it.”