Water Envy


Today, JParadisi RN joins thousands of other bloggers around the world in support of Blog Action Day 2010 with a post about water.


photo by jparadisi 2010

Some readers know I was born on Catalina Island, and grew up surrounded by the waters of the Pacific Ocean. When I lived there, Islanders relied on rainwater collected at several sites for our drinking water. A lack of a dependable drinking water supply for the island prevented the Union Army from establishing a permanent army base for the U.S. government during the Civil War. Over a century later, a reliable supply of drinking water for the inhabitants and the tourism industry that supports the local economy is a source of concern. I remember one year, when it was a serious problem.

Late in the 1970’s, after several years of drought, the Catalina’s reservoirs were well below the needs of our community. That summer strict water rationing was put into effect for every household. Bottled water flew off the shelves of our two, tiny grocery stores, which were supplied twice weekly by barge shipments from overtown (the mainland). For an early adolescent girl, the idea of showering every other day for no more than 5 minutes was alarming. “Day after” hair was not cool in the 1970’s, where the shampoo ads encouraged us to have “squeaky clean hair.” Water meters were scrupulously monitored, and households using more than their ration had the water supply to their house turned off until the following month. I knew a woman who had an undetected water pipe leak under her house. She went over her ration the first month, and there was no mercy. She bought soap that foamed in salt water, and went to the shoreline each morning in her bathing suit to wash, until her water was turned back on.

There was no water rationing for the tourists in the hotels, however. Because the Island’s economy depends on tourism, civic leaders did not restrict tourists from taking showers. They were encouraged to be considerate, and asked to reuse their hotel towels. They were asked not to request glasses of water from the restaurants that served them unless they intended to actually drink the water. I remember feeling envious of the tourist girls my own age that had clean, shiny hair, smelled fresh and clean every day, and returned to homes where long, hot showers were not a crime against a community.

We were saved from further rationing by a winter of strong, steady rain. I have not forgotten what it is like to be afraid that there might not be enough water.

Today one out of every six people lives in a world where there is not enough water. 1.1 billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water. Another 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation.

A physician I knew volunteered his time and skills in a clinic in a third-world village, dispensing immunizations and antibiotics to children. He said that by the end of the week, he realized that without safe drinking water and sanitation, the medications were practically useless. He spent the remainder of his time in the village digging ditches for water pipe.

You can help. Go to change.org. Learn more. Sign the petition. Fund raise, or donate. It’s a human right to have access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Oh, Did You Want Anti-Nausea Medications with Your Chemotherapy? You’ll Have to Pay Out of Pocket for That

   Note: If you are uninsured and diagnosed with cancer, you will probably find an oncologist and a hospital that will treat you. However, although your chemotherapy cost of tens of thousands of dollars is absorbed, no one will pay for the antiemetics (anti-nausea drugs) that your doctor will prescribe for you to take at home to manage the side effects of chemotherapy. (If you know something different, please post it in the comments.) So, if you don’t have any money, your oncologist will prescribe compazine (prochlorperazine), which is cheap, and used over 20 years ago, when people banged their heads against the toilet vomiting from chemo.  There are newer, more effective drugs, like Zofran (ondansetron) and Kytril (granisetron), that control nausea and vomiting. They are expensive. Uninsured patients usually can’t afford either. They don’t complain though, because they are getting their chemotherapy for free and they know they should be grateful. So they suffer. It’s the politics of health care.

A Metaphor: Health Care Reform on Life Support

oil on wood (2008) artist: JParadisi

     The idea that the Health Care Reform bill is on life support is disappointing, but not surprising. It was admitted in a weakened state of health. It appears suspiciously a victim of domestic violence by special interest groups. The bruises on its body resemble the outline of handprints of the insurance companies it was created to protect our citizens from. Already, my patients are complaining of rising health insurance deductibles this year. It is estimated that 14 million people will still be uninsured if the Health Care Reform bill rallies and passes. It is a complex piece of legislation that confuses even those of us who strongly advocate for health care reform. I think that’s where the undecided get lost and fall to the wayside; afraid to support what they do not understand.

     In my grief over Health Care reform, I console myself  by remembering that at least it’s a step in the right direction. At least an estimated 34 million currently uninsured citizens will be insured, and people who are currently insured won’t lose their insurance if they change jobs or become ill. These are progressive and necessary improvements to the present situation. I tell myself that if we lose this moment in history, it won’t come again anytime soon. Something is better than nothing. Fight for the life of the Health Care Reform bill, don’t let it slip away.

     But I know, even if successfully resuscitated, it will not be the strong, idealistic super hero it once was. It is anemic. The bill has been bled by special interests groups and insurance companies. It’s vital organs have been damaged by poor perfusion (lack of blood supply). It is now being threatened with further leeching in order to get even a shadow of its former self passed into legislation.

     Health Care is a human rights issue. Human rights issues are intimately linked to economics. Historically, in most countries, including the United States, it is this link that causes resistance. It is the cause of resistance to Health Care Reform now. Until Health Care is recognized as a fundamental human right, and not a for- profit industry, our citizens will continue to suffer.