To Pat Toomey, From a Chronically Ill Teen: I Am Not a 'Burned Down House'


I am a teenager living with five rare illnesses. I am a teenager who experiences unimaginable pain every day. I am a teenager who requires health care. Those are three facts that I know all too well. These three facts are the reason that as soon as word of the possibility of the Affordable Care Act being repealed reached me, I began to worry. I worried about my future as I rely heavily on my insurance. The truth is that yes, I do need my health insurance, and yes I am an unpredictable patient, but I am far from a “burned down house,” which is what Senator Pat Toomey compared people with pre-existing conditions to during a discussion about health insurance at a Senate confirmation hearing.

I am a girl who pushes past the unbelievable pain every day in order to move forward with my life. I go to school, I do my homework, I write articles, and most importantly I have a bright future. At the moment my illnesses are at a point where I can still do these daily activities along with some fun tasks like going to dances. Do I sound like a broken house to you? I’m the first to admit that I’m a teenager who struggles every day plagued by illness, but I also don’t let these conditions define me. Every day I find the strength to push through the pain and dizziness and get dressed, go to school, and further my education.

The minute my health care is taken away, I lose this ability. Medication prices skyrocket, doctors become insanely priced, and emergency departments are out of the question. Without these services, I will fall apart. If you want to see a burned down house then sure, take away my health insurance, but currently I am not only surviving, but I am thriving. If you want to see someone who is a working member of the community, a writer, a productive citizen, then everyone needs to take a step back from this situation. Take a step back and put yourself in my shoes. Realize that I do struggle to keep on my “I’m OK” face every day, but there are moments that I am truly OK. Outside of the nights spent screaming in pain, there are days spent writing, laughing, hanging out with friends. The minute I lose my medications that keep me functional and my doctors who treat me though this all melts away. My world as I know it will be gone in one fell swoop.

It comes down to senators like you, though. You are the people who dictate whether or not I have a quality of life. You decide whether I become that burned down house. Know that at the moment I am not a burned down house. I may be a house in constant need of repair, but I am still standing; I will stay standing. You can try to knock me down as many times as you can with your backwards politics and uneducated statements about my illnesses, but you cannot knock me down. I urge you to take a moment and imagine a day in my shoes. Imagine being 15 years old with every joint of your body dislocating, chronic migraines, chronic fatigue, unbearable pain, and constant blackouts. Now imagine pushing through this to go to school every day to have fun and continue your education. Does this sound like a burned down house? I don’t think so, and I believe if you reevaluated your statement you might come to the same conclusion.

I ask you, Pat Toomey, to do three things for Americans living with pre-exisiting conditions. I urge you to reevaluate and apologize for your statement. I urge you to consider your words and how they may affect others in the future. Finally, I urge you to vote to keep the preexisting illness clause that keeps me alive. I am not a burned down house. Vote to save my life.

Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.

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Photo by Gage Skidmore


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