Ordinary People

My Column for The Elgin Review January 22, 2020

It was the coldest night of the year and the OB nurse reported to my insurance company she didn’t care what their current policy was, (dismissing new mothers and babies 24 hours after birth), she wasn’t about to send me and my 5lb 2oz baby boy into sub-zero temperatures. If the insurance company wouldn’t cover an additional night in the hospital for us, she would! The insurance company relented and allowed us to stay a second night.

Benjamin entered the world just before midnight on January 22, 1992.  He was three weeks early. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and ¼ of the placenta had died. If Ben hadn’t come when he did, odds are he would not have survived. Things didn’t immediately improve for poor Benjamin after he was born. Though he was not identified as a preemie, he was a tiny, tired little fellow. He was far more interested in sleeping than he was in eating.

After that “extra” night the nurse’s pleading gained us, I awakened in the hospital on the 24th with a high fever. A uterine strep infection kept the two of us in the hospital for the next week. Ben nursed lazily and my fever did a number on how much milk my body was making. When we finally went home, Benjamin, after a week in the hospital with me, was still considerably smaller than either of his brothers were when we took them home as newborns.

Five weeks later, Benjamin still hadn’t topped six pounds, so the pediatrician put him back in the hospital for “failure to thrive.” Unable to tolerate formulas, Ben was given bottles of my milk mixed with a high calorie supplement that cost $60.00 per day. In 1992 $60.00 per day was a fortune for a young family. Our insurance company said they would not cover it. “We don’t cover nutritional supplements” the customer service representative calmly told me. “But, it’s a prescription from his doctor and without it he will die.” I melodramatically, and truthfully, explained. She, still calmly, said she was very sorry, but that was their policy.

Fortunately, our insurance was through my denomination’s pension fund for ministers and the plan’s administrators went to bat for us and the insurance company relented. Ben received the supplements he needed. And now, as he turns twenty-eight years old this week, he’s six feet tall, still skinny as a rail, healthy as a horse, and living a good life in New York City.

I do not remember the names of the nurse, nor the pension fund administrator who effectively lobbied the insurance company on Benjamin’s behalf. But, on his birthday I give God thanks for them. They stepped up and spoke up on Ben’s behalf. Who knows? They may have saved my youngest son’s life.

What’s the moral of this story? There are at least three. #1. Happy Birthday, Benjamin! You are worth the worry you put us through. #2. Trouble with health insurance is not new in this country. It’s about time we make sure folks can get the health care they need. #3. God uses ordinary, everyday people, like OB nurses and pension fund administrators to save lives.

Everyday God uses ordinary people to make the lives of others better. For all of you who step up and speak up, thanks be to God!

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