On Sunday, May 31st Health Care is a Human Right organizers were invited by a new member-organizer and congregate of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sanford to participate in a special service and discussion focused on health care justice. Reverend Sue Gabrielson focused her powerful sermon on a 1992 resolution by the UU General Assembly calling for a universal health care system in the US. The resolution affirms that â€œall people have a right to high-quality health careâ€ and â€œit is the responsibility of the public through government to provide for the common needs of the people in a just, equitable, and compassionate manner.â€
Member of the congregation and recent SMWC member Natasha Nolan Parker complemented the sermon by sharing her personal health care story and a call to action for all Mainers to join the movement for health care justice. Following the service, Natasha and fellow SMWC members held an open discussion with church members, many of whom shared aspects of their own struggles with the health care system.
Natasha is collaborating with statewide HCHR organizer Cait Vaughan to develop a locally-led organizing committee of the HCHR campaign in the Springvale/Sanford area. If you live nearby and want to get connected with Natasha, please call 207-370-9447 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Natasha has graciously agreed to share her story from the UU service here:
If you’ve gotten to know me in the nine months that my family and I have been a part of this church you may know that I love being a mom, that I’m an artist, that I quilt and garden and that I love to cook and camp and canoe. You may know that I’m a birdwatcher and that I have a thing for owls.
You probably don’t know that I have type one diabetes and use an insulin pump, that I had thyroid cancer, or that I have had five different surgeries in my lifetime so far. You probably don’t know that I shattered my ankle while backpacking in Yellowstone National Park and had to be airlifted to a hospital. Or that River, our hearty and happy toddler, spent 3 weeks in the NICU after he was born.
You probably don’t know that when my husband Kael and I filed our taxes this year we calculated that more than a quarter of our combined income from 2014 went to medical expenses. And that is WITH insurance…
Without insurance I would not be able to live a healthy life, as I need access to medicines that keep me alive and thriving. Without insurance we would undoubtedly be bankrupt, as is too often the case with folks who suffer from unexpected injuries or illnesses, or who have chronic diseases such as diabetes. Even with our current coverage we pay much more than we can afford as a family to get our basic medical needs met.
As a new member of this church I have been continually impressed by the ways in which you all care for one another. It is a basic doctrine of the Unitarian Universalist and it fills the sanctuary every week as we greet one another, as we share candles of joy and concern, and as we check in on each other outside of these walls- especially when someone is in need. Â I can speak to this with first hand knowledge! I’ve had emails, phone calls, cookies baked, rides given, visitors dropping by and many more inquiries on how I’m holding up and what I might need since breaking my arm last month. All of this from YOU: a group of people that has known me for a very short time but believes strongly that as a community we must support each other with love, caring, kindness and generosity.
I’m asking you today to reflect on the current state of health care in Maine: The number of people who are uninsured. The outrageous premiums and deductibles that one faces even WITH INSURANCE. All of the folks who fall through the cracks or canâ€™t navigate around the red tape like so many of the people visiting Corner Cupboard this month who took the time to share their healthcare stories. Â Iâ€™m asking you to think about a time that you or someone you know couldnâ€™t get the medical attention they needed due to lack of insurance or a time that you or someone you know felt trapped, scared and overwhelmed by medical bills piling up by the thousands of dollars because of treatments for cancer or medically necessary surgery. Iâ€™m asking you to think about you or someone you know who needs mental health support or dental work but ignores these needs due to lack of coverage.
I shared some of my story today to get you thinking about YOUR OWN story.
I’m asking you to reflect on the possibility of a healthcare system that is more like our church: compassionate, accessible, universal, and equitable. I believe that everyone should be able to access healthcare and everyone should be able to afford that access without fear, shame, or discrimination. Â I encourage you to join your voice with mine by reflecting on and sharing your past experiences and your future dreams of the healthcare system in Maine. Together, our stories become compassion, our compassion becomes hope, our hope becomes strength, and our strength has the power to affect change in a real and lasting way.
All photos by Roger Marchand, SMWC member & resident photographer.