Perhaps there should be a hard rock band called myasthenia gravis. A rare disease for which there is no cure, MG doesn't kill anyone right away but unmanaged it’s hard to live with. In time, it can affect the lungs, breathing, and can become a medical emergency requiring hospital treatment. Untreated, it can be fatal for the rich and poor alike, but especially for the poor without insurance who can’t afford medication that can stabilize it. It’s even worse for the poor who live in a state without Medicaid or a version of the program with limited coverage.
Sometimes MG begins with the victim unable to keep food in his mouth. It can become difficult to chew, even bite through a slice of cucumber. Eventually it can become difficult to swallow. It can also become difficult to keep liquids from seeping through a closed mouth, no matter how hard the lips are sealed.
A trip to the doctor can result in a prescription for a generic medication that runs $165 a month, a sizable expense for a poor person without insurance or access to Medicaid. But a poor person has to eat, however difficult it is to keep food in the mouth.
This rare autoimmune disease can advance into double vision. Double vision may sound comical but it is far from a hoot. Most people live long lives and never experience double vision.
Unfortunately, double vision isn’t the only visual problem that can develop with MG. One eye can suddenly no longer be in sync with the other eye, cannot focus on one thing at the same time.
Seeing two stop signs, for example, one above the other, while driving is disconcerting when it first happens. Seeing two of many things while driving or walking is bad but that is what happens with ocular MG. In a way it’s like looking in one of those mirrors at a carnival or circus.
A doctor can write a prescription for a different generic medication that will make both eyes harmonize again. It’s “only” $18 a month. Add that to the $165 to control the eating problem and a poor person without insurance or Medicaid has to find $182 every month to eat and see.
Anyone who has myasthenia gravis or another serious disease and can afford treatment should understand why Medicaid is a necessary program. It meets basic needs involving serious diseases for those unable to meet those needs otherwise.
If you live in a state where politicians are still bickering about Medicaid, why not find out why they are opposed to it and ask them to do the right thing by phone, mail or email. If they refuse to budge, try all three. Finding a way to help the poor is the right thing to do. In your spare time, you might also want to Google myasthenia gravis. It’s good to know about an illness you hope will never get.
Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chicago Tribune and Commonweal. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html#sthash.OSYzpgmQ.dpbs=