Ainsley's Big Toe


So we’re on our way out the door to do the school drop off and Ainsley drops her full metal water bottle right on her big toe.

There was screaming. Hysteria. Crying. Poor Zack was scared out of his mind. I’d have sent her to school, except I thought the screaming and crying might disturb the other students and the teacher. Oh, and she was screaming, “I don’t want to go to school! I can’t walk! It hurts! It burns!”

The throbbing kept getting worse. The doctor’s office couldn’t see her till the next day and No Thank You to the Emergency Room.

So, I’m chatting on the phone with my mom and she’s practically convinced me that it would be so simple, not to mention so much cheaper, just to sterilize a needle and do it myself. Poke a hole in her toenail myself to let the blood out. So we’re clear.

Ainsley and I are down on the floor, praying, crying and hysterically shaking in fear and pain. I’m poised with my needle and realizing how hard I am going to have to poke to get it through the toenail.

I sort of rise above myself – you know when you see yourself and what you’re doing from the outside – have you ever had one of those moments? A news bulletin I recently heard flashes through my brain, “Can your child really be taken away if you don’t speak English?” (In a nation of immigrants, I hope not). But I think to myself, “What about if you perform home surgery on your child? What if it gets infected? I wonder if there’s a law about it?” I look at my poor child on the floor quivering with fear and pain.

I say one of my most frequent prayers, “Dear God, please don’t let this be the moment she remembers.” Out loud, I say, “Forget it, I’m not doing this. We’ll wait till we see the doctor tomorrow.” I abandoned my surgical ambitions and put another ice pack on it.

So the blood built up in her toe overnight. Throbbing . . . throbbing . . . throbbing . . .throbbing. Until the doctor could see us. I took a position holding her from behind, covering her eyes, and whispering “Shuush, I Love You, Lord be with my girl,” while the doctor and nurse poked the hole in her toenail and the blood could ooze out. Then the doctor ordered x-rays to see if it was broken and Ainsley was thrilled with being pushed in a wheelchair.


On the way to the dentist, coincidentally scheduled for the same day as our Toe Drama, Ainsley says to me, “Mommy how much is the dentist going to cost you?”

Of course she knows that I didn’t take her to the ER because I don’t want to have a bunch of medical bills trickling in. She’s probably pretty thrilled, feeling pretty special and worth-it, because I consented to the X-ray. The last three times a doctor recommended an X-ray or cat scan I refused, explaining we weren’t into spending thousands of dollars “just to rule worst-case scenarios out.”

One of the things I’ve learned to ask is, “what’s the treatment if it’s a positive result?” If the answer is “it will run it’s course and self-correct,” then we forgo the test. It seems illogical – I mean, absurdly unaffordable – in our current system to pay thousands for a diagnosis, when the cure is free. I also ask, “Are there adverse effects if we try an affordable treatment and forgo expensive diagnostics?” If it won’t kill you, radiate you, or give you diarrhea I’m not opposed to trying a little $4 generic medication without knowing for sure. If it works, we know. If it doesn’t, we try the next thing. Okay, I’d even live with diarrhea to avoid expensive medical bills. Who wouldn’t?

But, this was an insurance-covered annual teeth cleaning and we just spent $200 for filling two of the tiniest cavities I’ve ever seen, so I was feeling pretty confident. Until the dentist told me we’d need to schedule two more fillings on the other side.

“When are those two teeth supposed to fall out?” I wanted to know.

“Ten or Twelve, but they’ll cause pain before then. If we yank them we’ll have to add spacers or you’ll pay more for braces,” the dentist explained.

I could tell I’m not the first mom who didn’t want to spend $200 on baby teeth about to be reimbursed $1 from the Tooth Fairy. Who would?

I have health insurance, folks. But, I want to be rich enough to USE my health insurance. This system seems barbaric to me. I want to be able to take my daughter to the hospital without calculating how long it will take us to catch back up.

I don’t think the current private health insurance system is competitive the way a free market should be. I think they’re in cahoots with each other to keep prices elevated. Profit is a sketchy motive to run a health care system on. Are you ordering that test because it makes your corporation more money or are you ordering it because I, or my kids, need it? Unfortunately, over the last few years my faith in my doctor’s recommendations has plummeted. They have corporate quotas. They get bonuses for ordering more tests. They get less money if patients don’t come back a certain number of times. They pass patients around to their friends.

I am for a public plan health care option because I think it will make private insurance companies lower their prices and increase their services. That’s what capitalism is all about: the consumer requiring better performance at better prices. The consumer and the voter are the same person in this scenario.

To be clear: I want to BUY health insurance at a competitive price that middle class Americans can afford to use. My strike-it-rich fantasies include going to the doctor for things like allergy shots that have been prescribed. They include being able to rush my kid to the ER if she needs it. They include visits to the chiropractor, dentist, and dermatologist that I need. They include medical tests I should get, but don’t.

Read about the Massachusetts health care system. Run by a Republican Governor because it’s more economically viable. It’s a trial run of how a universal health care system might work. It’s not uncharted territory. We’re freaking America, People! How is it that we think we can’t manage a better health care system than this? Are we having a crisis of Ego?

We absolutely should – as capitalists – be requiring more than what we’re getting for the 20% of the gross national product we spend on health care.

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