by Bridget on September 26, 2011

This past Friday was my youngest brother’s birthday. If he were still alive, he would have been 32. This coming Friday will be the 5 year anniversary of his death.

MacKenzie had a wicked sense of humor and was incredibly good natured. Kind and fun, albeit very opinionated and ridiculously stubborn. He had worked in masonry. He was good at it, but he hated having no money and no insurance. So, he decided that selling real estate would be his new career and he worked hard to earn his real estate license. Mac took out a loan to get his business started. But, his timing could not have been worse. The housing market bottomed out leaving him financially stressed and still uninsured. Always proud and fiercely independent, he just wanted more for himself without a handout.

Complicating matters, Mac suffered from severe anxiety, and he self-medicated with alcohol. As his financial pressures grew, so did his anxiety and drinking. Without insurance, he had few options for care. He refused to accept money from my parents, my other brother and his wife, or Gary and me. Doctors and therapists would not offer services without cash upfront or insurance. He looked into free county services but they were so overburdened that he had to wait weeks and weeks in between appointments, which he ultimately did. He couldn’t get enough help fast enough.

Late one night, in his own home, Mac fell on his way to the bathroom and hit his head. By morning, he had suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and there was nothing the doctors could do for him. That day, my life and the lives of my family members changed forever.

It was years of inadequate preventative medical care followed by months of low-grade/non-existent mental health care that were the precursors to his death. The saddest part to me is that if the care exists, then why does the type/existence of insurance determine who gets it? I just do not understand how two people from the same family have entirely different chances for survival based on income and insurance.

We as individuals are obligated to take our health into our own hands – getting annual check-ups, getting recommended screenings (PAPs, mammograms, colonoscopy, cholesterol checks, etc.), not postponing visits because it’s “probably nothing” or because we’re busy.  But, I also understand all-too-well the catch-22 with not having something covered under your policy or not having the cash to pay out-of-pocket at all. It is a slippery slope.  I do not take for granted that I will survive/thrive because I have had the best possible care every step of the way. I am so fortunate.

I am also fortunate to have known and to love Mac. So for him, as fragile as life may seem at times, I will remain resilient.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim Youngblood September 26, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Well said Bridget. I am sorry for the loss of your brother and more sorry that there are people, as he was, without the insurance to get their medication. No one understands severe anxiety nor depression until it ‘bites’ them. I truly feel for the pain he went through and endured as my heart goes out to him that he never experienced the medical treatment available to be able to afford some comfort from the terrible, terrible, suffering of the nerves on end all the time. Prayers to you and your family for your loss and to all those without insurance that have to self medicate to reduce the central nervous system defect that effects a person entire being. Hugs to you and salute you for posting!

Alissa (Swartz) Hogan September 27, 2011 at 12:23 am

Oh Bridge … I didn’t know! Obviously – we lost touch for years and have only done the ‘surface catch up’ out on Facebook. I remember him so well … but in my mind he is that beautiful little boy that was your baby brother when we were still babies ourselves. He was SO stinkin’ cute! I remember going home and begging my parents to have another kid so I could have a baby brother – I was so jealous. It breaks my heart to hear how hard life became for him. It warms my heart to feel the love you had, and still have for him. No doubt today is a tough day for you. I also have no doubt that Mac is watching you and that your baby brother has become your guardian angel.

J.J. September 29, 2011 at 2:57 am

Aaaahhh Bridgey! Weren’t we all the lucky ones for getting to have that little fart-head in our lives. Sometimes nothing makes sense, and there’s no use even trying to make sense of it, but remembering the blessings that Mac brought into your life and knowing that you’ve got some of “the good guys – and one of the best in Mac” – helps. I think of it like the “Footprints” poem. Those days when you’re sad, or you’re pissed, or just so tired and sick and sick of being tired and sick…those are the days when I think Mac sends down his spirit to give yours an extra little lift – Lord knows he can lift a spirit with that crinkly-eyed smile of his! Take time to just feel his love – I know he’s sending it your way!
Love you!

Deb October 3, 2011 at 8:14 pm

I, too, was fortunate to have options. I have not health insurance. I opted for Medicaid. I had no choice. If I wanted to survive Medicaid was my only option. I mirror your sentiments about having a choice and not. It is strange how one who doesn’t have coverage suffers dire consequences. In Canada, everyone is covered. That’s what the taxes are for. There was a documentary done once on this country’s healthcare and compared it to the European versions. After seeing the film – I wanted to move. France or Australia. Doctors there don’t make the same salaries. In Europe they are more eager to serve the greater good than to bank on a buck.

Thanks for sharing this. Cheers to Mac. He is in a better place. Warm hugs to you.


Carolyn Gulley October 5, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Mac was absolutely one-of-a-kind and anyone who knew him is always going to miss him!

Jennifer November 3, 2011 at 10:41 pm

So sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine that. Your comments on health insurance/care couldn’t be more true.

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