Neighborly Chat

I visited my next door neighbor to ask a favor today, and sat down to chat. She loves visits, and the price of addressing even the smallest remark to her is a sort of mandatory invitation to "come in and sit down." She's a wonderfully generous woman in her mid fifties or so. S has helped us out in many small ways, and we have a regular habit of sharing food we've overbought and can't use up. She lives with her daughter and son in law and their toddler while the kids are working their way through college. S immediately agreed to watch our twins, Thing 1 and Thing 2, during our teacher conference this week. Now, I had known that S had started falling down a lot last year about this time and had seen a neurologist and undergone medical testing. I have been praying for her and wondering if she had a diagnosis yet, but felt awkward about asking straght out. In retrospect I guess that expressing concern would not count as prying but I'm a somewhat shy person. Today S told me that she'd had an MRI with a suspiscion of MS but some doubt. She then said that her primary care doctor knew the head of neurology at a large academic center and sent the MRI to him. He ruled out MS but suggested she come to Big City to be tested for the rarer things it could be. S then said that her grandfather died of an undiagnosable (at the time, before modern imaging) muscle wasting disease. All his doctors could say was that it was not ALS. Sharon showed me the muscle wasting in her hand and wrist that was not present last year and that she had never mentioned before. S works for herself and has never been able to afford health insurance. She is hoping she can afford a trip to Big City at all, let alone any part of the medical care. It makes me wish we could adopt her and put her on our insurance. The whole situation seems so grim. This scenario is played out hourly among the tens of millions of uninsured Americans, and it breaks my heart. As a psychiatric social worker, it's probably easy to guess that I'd support universal health care. If seeing what I see daily hadn't convinced me, I'm sure this would.