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Grieving System Failures as Team Processes a Loss

by Dr. Lisa Merritt

This week on our care coordination updates, it is personal– everyone at MHI shares personal culturally resonant understanding and empathy with the people we serve which helps us try that much harder to do what we do. This week, we have sad news to share from our care coordination department, of a beautiful life cut short by the ravages of a hard disease in all its protean manifestations-Diabetes. We stand with our devoted MHI Safekeeper, Angela Miles and her family, in the loss of her daughter Kareema after epic battle after battle navigating, negotiating, advocating for her increasingly complex care needs. We pray her spirit now rests in Peace. We will never forget things like the 4 hour marathon call to the insurance company we were on together, being “transferred” from one person to another, interminable “holds,” repeating stories, redirecting/correcting incorrect information, trying to get the authorization that previously should have been given but was denied and ended up in yet another preventable hospitalization and further complications. Our hearts go out to the family and all families sharing similar challenges. This is an example of why we have invested in CDC training for the team to help teach others how to prevent Diabetes. 38% of the adult US population has pre-Diabetes. Look for classes starting next month. We ask for your prayers and welcome donations of financial support for the family during this challenging time.

I am sitting in the surgery waiting room at Doctor’s Hospital as I write this, waiting for my own daughter’s outcome, and thinking of just a few weeks ago how hopeful we were because of the excellent care given here to Kareema by Gulf Coast Medical Society Colleague, Dr. Schandorff . This article is dedicated to my family, parents and grandparents who have the unique blessing and challenge of caring for a child or grandchild with chronic complex health issues, or, in the worst case, has lost a child or grandchild.

As we ponder the challenges of our health care system, we perpetually labor to bridge and overcome, perhaps we might wish for single payor concepts brought forth by Dr Susan Rogers who spoke just prior to us at the NMA convention on brilliant strategies of Physicians for a National Health Plan https://pnhp.org/. Meanwhile, we cling to the hope on the horizon from the current administration’s inspiring Inflation Reduction Act that includes relief for costs of medications and insurance for “regular people” (look for Olympia's article next week).

For example, just this week after months of back and forth calls, faxes, emails, and a lot of waiting on hold to get the prescription, then authorization and then “patient assistance” for medications for my daughter, I was able to negotiate for a new medication her doctor hopes may help her. That medication initially was going to have a copay of “Only $2,555 a month”. This is better than the last one that was going to be “Only $3,500 a month” or the one before that that was going to be $14,000 a month, impossible.

It is a strange form of grief as I think about the confusing technocracy tangled morass of our current healthcare system, so vastly different than the one I grew up and then trained in where the patient was always 1st. Where doctors regularly made house calls, followed their patients into and out of the hospital, and knew everyone in the family and the “social determinants of health” impacting their care. I think about that scene in that incredible movie “The Green Mile” in which he is lifting his eyes to the heavens crying in anguish, “ I can't take it back” this gigantic gentle giant who had a special power of healing and tried to save the traumatized little girl but was accused of killing her. That line, the emotion behind it I can really relate. It is the same feeling of “We can't fix it” when I think of our health system and currently distorted medical training creating an assembly line mentality increasingly devoid of compassion and prioritization of human connection to feed the capitalist machine of avarice and greed that now rules medical care in our country. And this “sick medicine model” contributes to lives being cut short. On behalf of Kareema and all the people we advocate for as best we can, may we keep finding the way to combat that gradual decline in spirit due to the dehumanization of repeated culturally incompetent and indifferent care. May we celebrate the wisdom of the ancestors who’s traditional healing knowledge held many benefits beyond serving as basis for current economically driven pharmacopeia as we rediscover and integrate that collective knowledge into “evidence based care”. May we help train and hold up those doctors and systems that dare to provide equitable care and find ways to bring more of that into being for the benefit of us all.


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