Today, we have the second in a series by Part Time Monster Contributor Cat. She is my dearest friend, certainly my longest-running companion (we’ve been friends all our lives), and she and her wife, Heather, have recently gotten married. You can find part 1 of their story here.
My wife (then fiancee) was hospitalized for 13 days. A new complication with her type 1 diabetes had surfaced. Heather’s health had always been fragile, but now we learned that her stomach was not functioning properly, and it would not function properly ever again. The wedding, which now more than ever we realized was nothing more than a party, was forgotten as we struggled to figure out what the damage was, how to combat it and how to live with this new aspect of her disease.
She had held her job at a local casino for seven years. She turned away from dreams of college for a full time job with insurance when she was diagnosed at 17. I turned down a promotion with my company and a chance to move to my favorite city to keep her insurance. Many more decisions deferred to her staying put, and staying on her insurance plan. While she was on a medical leave of absence, the casino restructured her department, and in a swift and sneaky way moved both her and her insurance costs out of their realm of responsibility. She offered to do anything–service, barista, housekeeping–just to keep her insurance, but no room could be found in the 32 story building
Every day during her hospitalization, which was to be the first of five over the next year, I navigated the halls, avoiding the doctors who asked too many questions about the legal status of our relationship. I made friends with the nurses who were competent and cared enough to see that I was her wife, papers or no. Those who were incompetent hid their faults behind our gray area status. What did it matter if the nurse didn’t wear gloves to change an I.V.? Was I even supposed to be back there after visiting hours? I lived in fear of her parents stepping in, and out of concern and love, taking the decision making out of my hands. Heather’s first girlfriend had been barred from the hospital when she was admitted with a blood glucose level of 1600. She closed her eyes that night, thinking she would never see her first love again. Incomprehensible that we could experience the same thing, but it was my fear. My worst fear, that I could lose her and never see her.
Once she was released and we started navigating life post-crisis we realized the battle for healthcare had just begun. Try finding a specialist with no insurance. The doctor at the low income clinic that we were forced to go to had to Google her diagnosis. As we struggled to find her quality health care my frustration grew. If I were a man, we could go to the courthouse ,and within hours she could be covered by my Blue Cross and Blue Shield policy. I even discovered that Blue Cross allowed domestic partners on insurance, but my company chose not to offer that option.
Now I have been petitioning and protesting since I was in the third grade at Millry Elementary School. The school would take the junior high and high school honor roll students to dinner at the local catfish house, but not the elementary students. I argued ageism and took it before the principal and school board. Needless to say, after the next nine weeks, the elementary students were having hush puppies and slaw with the older students.
As a journalist I had lent my voice to unpopular causes both liberal and conservative according to my personal beliefs. I had canvassed neighborhoods in Ohio for Obama. I headed up an LGBT story drive for the Courage Campaign backed by Senator Feinstine. I knew the work that needed to be done to change the policy, but for once I didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t spoiling for the fight, for the debate. We were fighting already. I just wanted to marry my wife.