Million Dollar Baby

Nepalese father holds newborn baby

A Nepalese father and daughter surviving the earthquake.

I’m not sure what was more frightening, the cacophony of alarms blaring through the ICU like an out of control freight train, or the lifeless bodies of my twin daughters that arrived spectacularly three months too early. The word prematurity never entered my vocabulary until 2005. Now that word fills any unused part of my soggy brain as I ponder what the   hell happened ten years ago.

Before long I had numerous bills coming in the mail that would drive any average person to contemplate a life of crime. The adventure with our daughters began during a five year working stint in the USA where the health system and health insurance indiscriminately separated the ‘haves’ from the ‘have nots’. The lucky dip of life had us squarely in the ‘have’ camp.

Both daughters endured long stays in the ICU. My daughter Sunshine was in there for a horrifying six months. Bills began to pile up each week; $15,000, $23,000, $100,000… Fortunately, our exclusive ‘have’ status meant most of it was covered by our health insurance. Before twelve months had clocked over, Sunshine had racked up an impressive one million dollars of bills. Yes, you read that correctly.

I am a typical father; I want the best for my kids, especially when it comes to health. When Sunshine was fighting for her life, my wife and I would have given our own souls and then some. But when does the privilege of being a white middle class male run out of favours? Was a million dollars too much? How far should society go to protect the ones they love when the same money could save thousands of other people? I am not the right person to ask because clearly I will always think Sunshine’s life is priceless and so I should.

As the Nepal crisis occasionally skips across the media, I am made uncomfortable by the vulnerability of a group of people who don’t have health insurance and live in a country where life has less value… or does it? What if the Nepalese father holding his daughter as a surgeon amputated her crushed leg loved his child as much as I do mine? What if the husband who witnessed his wife take her last breath choking in earthquake debris loved her as much as I love my wife? Obviously they do love as much as I do, but because the lottery of life had me live in Australia – I am rich and they are not, I have options and they don’t. It’s that simple.

This should be disturbing; it should mess with me. It should make me want equality across the world even if it were for the selfish reason of being able to enjoy my life without battling guilt for my extravagant existence – I would hope it was for better reasons than that.

Love is common to us all, it is potent and it will drive us to extraordinary efforts to conserve those we care about. The trouble is, wealth is the gatekeeper to what determines the extent you can go to preserve life. Surely this isn’t ok…

5 thoughts on “Million Dollar Baby

  1. Jay mate. What a heart rending blog post. I want to say, though, that she is worth every penny and you shouldn’t feel seconds worth of guilt. What are you suggesting as the alternative? The problem of equity in the world is not your daughter, and neither is it you.

    I’m proud that our government directed some small portion of our re-sources toward your family and your daughter. Yes, we should be embarrassed about our nation’s wealth when it cuts foreign aid and is profligate with what it has – but you of all people should know that the answer to global poverty isn’t cutting support for people with severe disabilities. These are complex problems, and we should never brush them aside – but I reject the argument you seem to be making here.

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    • Hey Shane, thanks for the comment. I was surprised at your take so I went back and reread what I wrote incase I inadvertently made the wrong point. Not ever would I suggest to cut disability funds to balance our aid donations as country. In fact in the blog I make the comment to provoke a response, “How far should society go to protect the ones they love when the same money could save thousands of other people? I am not the right person to ask because clearly I will always think Sunshine’s life is priceless and so I should.” Sunny is worth ever single penny, “When Sunshine was fighting for her life, my wife and I would have given our own souls and then some.” My point was to say we would always choose to sustain life no mater the cost, it is simply because of geography that I have options and another father of a special needs child on the other side of the world doesn’t – that is the core of my unease. The inequality should disturb all of us. Of course I don’t know what the answer is but the dissonance should elicit more compassion for those with less. Yes, I am being hopelessly ideal again…

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  2. Love will always be the most powerful force on this earth. It’s free. It stirs hope and keeps us alive. Although on the flip side can cause immense pain. But it’s what’s going to keep us sane in a world that doesn’t make sense. Money, greed & wealth are the things that seem to be running the world and it makes me sick. I am suddenly reminded of someone who came to my house years ago with flash cards of shiny sportscars & big houses aparantly trying to impress me to join them in
    “an exciting business opportunity”I was angry and highly offended that they assumed these would turn me on & be part of my life goals.( Wtf!! ). Yes the “lottery of life”is not fair. Neither are our governments. If anything,may we be reminded to live with less, be happy with what we have, and be compelled to get involved in making a difference in someone’s life. We are all of the same worth.

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