From The New York Times:
It Was Benign, but Almost Killed Him
By JENNIFER S. CHANG, M.D.
Published: December 20, 2010
William Siewert almost died from an enlarged prostate.
Not prostate cancer, just a “benign” enlarged prostate. He is yet another example of the people who fall victim to our currently broken health care system. He agreed to share his story in the hope that someday cases like his would be rare exceptions.
Mr. Siewert, a 61-year-old native of San Francisco, had been living in Idaho for the past 10 years to care for his disabled girlfriend. He had to give up his job as a truck driver — and along with it, his medical insurance — but he did so willingly so his girlfriend could remain in her home as long as possible.
He had started noticing urination problems five years after he moved to Idaho. His urine stream had gotten weaker, and he had to get up frequently at night. Finally he went to see a urologist, who told him that he had benign prostatic hyperplasia and that his prostate would need to be “cut out.”
Unable to come up with $10,000 for surgery, he was given a rubber tube and instructed to insert it into his penis twice a day to empty his bladder.
He left the urology clinic dejected and never returned. Instead, he found a small free clinic two hours away. There he was given a drug to try to shrink his prostate.
The medicine seemed to help, but because of the long drive he had trouble returning for follow-up visits. He continued to empty his bladder with the rubber tube. He was constantly nauseated, so much so that he lost 50 pounds.
Unfortunately, William Siewert’s story is an all too familiar one. His story exposes everything that is wrong with a healthcare system that doesn’t help every American seek treatment for illness before it becomes horribly unmanageable or worse. When people are forced to put off treatment or forgo it altogether because they can’t afford it, care becomes much more expensive later on.
But what happened to Mr. Siewert and millions like him shouldn’t happen in the wealthiest nation on Earth. The collective health of Americans is worse off because many of our neighbors can’t get the care they need in a timely fashion. We would save more money and more lives if we treated preventive health care as a right available to everyone.