Sunday, 14 July 2013

Hot Cripple

This is dedicated to Jeannie Jones.

You might be forgiven for thinking that "hot cripple" is a description of me at the moment. Well, it's true. It could well be! I'm hot (in the literal sense); and I'm a cripple, also literally. However - it's not. It's the title of the book I've just finished reading. I was recommended it by my New York friend, Jeannie, who also has PLS.

I must say it's great read. One reviewer called it "hilarious and harrowing" - which is pretty accurate. If you'd like a short (1 minute) trailer for it you could watch this. For a longer taste of its (strong) content you could watch this 15-minute version of Hogan Gorman's stage show which gave rise to the book. The book should be compulsory reading for MPs and anyone inclined to privatise the National Health Service, and for those who reckon that benefit claimants are shirkers and fraudsters.

It's ex-model and aspiring actress, Hogan Gorman's true account of being hit by a car reversing at 40 mph down a one-way street in New York and sustaining life-threatening injuries. As the paramedic comments, "I can't believe you're alive. When I saw the car I was sure you were a DOA" (dead on arrival). The snag is that, being a waitress, Hogan does not have health insurance - it doesn't go with the job. And so she falls prey to the also-ran medical provision for the unlucky millions of Americans who can have no private cover. The saving grace of her story of progressive degradation and repeated humiliation at the hands of an inhuman (with one or two exceptions) bureaucracy is the humour with which she recounts it. But there is no escaping the suffering she endures along with others she meets in the social security offices and the disability assessment centres and finally in the courts. She has to face the stigma of living on food stamps ($4.7 a day - that's just over £3). She undergoes sub-standard medical treatment, because the "best" doctors are doing the insurance cases, and as a result she has to resort to a 100% loan to cover the cost of putting it right. And so the catalogue of horror continues. I'm not going to tell the whole story, because I'd like you to read it (I'm hoping you won't be offended by the street language - not stronger than we're used to on TV). And in case you're concerned, I have to say it is not at all a dark book. Indeed I would say it's intensely life-affirming - almost joyous - and certainly remarkable. 

However the burning point of this post and the book is how catastrophic it would be if we ever allowed our NHS (imperfect as it may be) to be in the slightest eroded. It's also a strong warning-call, from someone who really knows, of the perils of the American system of social security to which we seem so curiously attracted. I challenge you not to be challenged and made indignant by all that Hogan is forced, through no fault of hers, to endure. From all inhuman systems, good Lord deliver us.

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