Public health care saved my wife’s life

MARTINEZ, Calif. — In September of last year something dreadful came to my family. During a self-examination my wife discovered a lump in her breast. The world stopped. Adding to the anxiety my family had no healthcare insurance. It was a grim time. Like millions of others we experienced the sense of isolation and fear that comes when our family or ourselves face the specter of potentially life threatening illness with no access to medical care.

We found, online, a notice for free breast exams at a public health care facility, Contra Costa County Health Services. We went and from that point everything turned around. My wife was scheduled for a mammogram as well as more advanced forms of digital imaging used in the detection of breast cancer. We were seen in less than a week. The staff at the Contra Costa Health service and Martinez General Hospital was amazing. They contacted my wife every other day, sometimes twice a day to keep her apprised of developments as the tests results came in. In less than ten days she had seen a specialist and a surgeon. By December she received treatment. Fortunately, the cancer was caught early. She was declared cancer free on December 28, 2012.

The professionalism and humanity of the healthcare providers at Contra Costa County Health Services was such a comfort, that we were able to be confident and calm. It was clear we were in excellent hands, medically, but also in dealing with the trauma.

It was another example of how effective a public healthcare system can be. Even when we were both working and had excellent healthcare insurance with a private hospital they never performed with the speed and concern shown by our local county health services.

Next time anyone tells you a “public option” would lower the standard of care tell them to talk to me. Public healthcare saved my wife’s life, and in a way that showed true humanity. The struggle for the public option is not only political. For me, now, it’s personal.

Photo: Wearing pink, Georgia spectators cheer their team during breast cancer awareness day, at a college gymnastics meet in Athens, Ga., Feb. 16. David Tulis/AP