Wednesday, March 03, 2010

I went to Washington, D.C. this week

And I saw some interesting things.

  • Newly-minted Senator Scott Brown's Truck.  Seriously.  And it's kind of a low-rider.  
  • Senator Orrin Hatch getting on an elevator, and he's taller than I expected.
  • The National Statuary Hall Collection on the first floor of the Capitol, which included an awesomely squared-off statue of Father Damien from Hawaii and a statue from Oregon of Edward Dickinson Baker, the only sitting U.S. Senator to die in battle during the Civil War, at the Battle of Ball's Bluff (not to go on too much of a run-on here, but the Battle of Ball's Bluff is not a joke - and it's famous for another reason, in that future Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. [aka "WEEEEEENDELLLLLL!!!!", for anyone lucky enough to have heard Professor R. Perry Sentell, Jr.'s amazing monologue on the Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table and how he created perhaps America's Greatest Jurist] was wounded at the same battle).
  • The seldom-seen underground train-shuttle from the Capitol to the basement of the Russell Senate Building. 
  • An ATM right outside the door of the Senate's private barber shop/shoeshine.  It's strange looking.
  • Myself, nearly dropping trou at the security checkpoint entering the Russell Building.  My belt was a threat, apparently.
  • Countless compelling stories from people affected by Arthritis and Arthritis-related diseases.  I've never felt so optimistic about the future and the proximity to a cure, but I've also never felt more frustrated by the failure of our nation to respond adequately to a massively expensive problem affecting millions of Americans.  I met a six year old already forced to use a wheelchair to get around and for whom painful monthly treatments of shots haven't provided any solace.  I met a teenager from Alaska who, though suffering through a flare, couldn't get to see a rhuematologist for nine long, painful months because (a) there are no pediatric rheumatology specialists, (b) the only rheumatologists currently practicing in Alaska no longer accept new patients, and (c) the pediatric rheumatologist from Washington state who is supposed to fly up to Alaska to meet certain needs won't or can't come during the winter.  I met a twelve year old girl who has had one hip replacement and is looking forward to her second this coming summer.  I met a family with three incredibly brilliant kids, each of whom has been diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, a Gulf War veteran father diagnosed with post-traumatic osteoarthritis, where both parents work and have employer-provided insurance, but who, nevertheless, have lost their house because of their oppressive healthcare costs and who have been forced repeatedly to choose which of the three kids would have to go without anti-inflammatory medications this month.  We're the greatest country on earth.  Nobody can go to our nation's capital without feeling a great sense of pride.  But we fail as a nation when it comes to healthcare.  We can do so much better.  We shouldn't fail people who are doing the right thing.  We shouldn't live in a country where a dozen or so states don't have a single medical specialist that serves children with a debilitating disease.  We can do better.