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Living With a Chronic Illness in a City Without Lyft or Uber

As the economy continues to evolve throughout the country, ride sharing programs such as Lyft and Uber have become a must-have in every city. Their prices are much more reasonable than a taxi and the drivers are quite friendly. But there is also another benefit to these companies that many people overlook — namely, safe transportation for many people with disabilities to appointments, hospitals, pharmacies, and grocery stores.

As someone who has a chronic illness, there are many days where driving is not even an option for me due to the physical symptoms and brain fog that come along with the illnesses. While that may seem like it has a simple answer of, “Well then don’t go driving,” it’s not that simple.

Chronic illnesses often require a full-time job’s worth of physician appointments, therapy, physical therapy, massage or other holistic medicine, pharmacies for medications, and many other things that fall within or in between these categories. Many times scheduling doctor’s appointments requires planning months in advance, especially for a new patient appointment.

When a patient with a chronic illness is unable to drive and unable to work, their income is severely limited. I will note that this also includes those who are caught in the savage process for disability coverage in the US resulting in two-to-three-year spans or longer (and that’s just waiting to see a judge) with a zero income. Sure you get back-paid, but in the meantime you have to eat, you have to go to appointments, you need insurance, and you have many other bills that don’t simply disappear when you suddenly become disabled.

Furthermore, patients with chronic illness are often faced with the unpredictability of the illness or illnesses. It has no rhyme or reason, and often can not be predicted in advanced as to what days will be good or bad. When a bad day arises and it is unsafe to drive, the patient is faced with a huge dilemma. It’s already hard to afford the appointments but they are a necessity for any sort of wellbeing. If they cancel, offices do not recognize that there are often legitimate reasons for canceling day of, especially for a patient with an unpredictable chronic illness. Trying to drive there would be like your brain wearing those drunk driving glasses from drivers ed; you see everything in front of you but the brain is unable to successfully process the signals it is getting due to the interference and murky field of vision it has on the matter. Now what?

There are a couple of options.

1. If you live in an area with decent enough public transit you can do this. However, safety is a huge concern with this as waiting out in the heat or cold is extremely dangerous to many with a chronic illness, let alone having to stand, walk further as stops aren’t close enough, or embark on over and hour or more ride having to leave at a very inconvenient time, taking up way more of their already severely limited energy supply.

2. See if friends and family can take you. That’s fine if it’s once and a while but others work and have their own responsibilities to attend to. This is generally not even an option in a very short span of time on the day of. It further reduces this as an option if you do not have family nearby or at all.

3. Call for a taxi. Most taxi rides today, practically from here to the corner are running upwards of $20 or even more. My last taxi ride a few years back was $57 from home to the nearest Walmart. The Walmart was only 15 minutes away. Not only is this a ridiculous amount of money, but it is quite literally highway robbery. Try affording that plus co-pays, plus food, plus medications, plus housing on a zero income. Good luck.

4. Walk. Haha yeah… if public transit has its safety problems for those with chronic illnesses, many of us whom are lucky to walk to the bathroom when we need it (still with excruciating pain) are screwed. Talk about a safety issue. Plus imagine a five- to 10-mile-away office or further. Care to join on this walk? Here’s a box of thumbtacks to put in your shoes for the little journey.

5. Medical transportation is not only rarely available on a day of need, but the prices for these services can be outrageous. They are often late and unreliable, resulting in still missing the appointments whether you wanted to or not. Never mind the extra energy needed to set this up and the process of insurance debacles associated.

So what other options would a person have? Before a few years ago, a hope and a dream. But today, a new way of doing things has come about. Ride sharing services like Lyft and Uber have provided many who face these issues with a solution that is not only convenient, but more reasonably priced, safe, and reliable. Add in not needing to process a payment directly with the driver and it becomes even more easy.

But what about those of us with chronic illnesses in places such as upstate New York? That’s right, New York City may have Uber and Lyft, but upstate New York sits awaiting its lawmakers to do something despite numerous overwhelming pleas from the community in all sectors across the entire state. For us, we are stuck seemingly in a twilight zone. It is a space between the present day and the past. The innovation is there just outside of our reach, but yet the leaders above us deny us the basic rights of a free economy and thus impact our health care in a negative way. For us, we are often faced with unnecessary charges from missed appointments, doctors who no longer see patients due to too many of these missed appointments, and high fees for rides from taxi services that should be held accountable for the price gouging tactics they consistently try to justify. But yet it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s a solution to the issue that is running throughout the country successfully and safely. It is there, providing many patients with a safe and affordable alternative for both appointments and medically needed trips, to short trips just to get out of the house on a good day and reconnect with friends and loved ones that the illness may have separated us from.

But unfortunately, many of us out here do not have this access. For us it is not only yet another denial of access to something beneficial, but is actually a barrier to us to receive the necessary health care we need in a safe manner, when the unpredictability of our unchosen illnesses decides to enter stage left.

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Thinkstock photo by m-gucci