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To the Hospital Who Saw Me as a Liability

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Dear Hospital,

You say that you are here to help people; you are there to provide care for those in their darkest hours of need, when their lives and futures are in jeopardy. You are the place that proclaims to offer supreme treatment over all the other medical institutions one could choose to receive care at. You are where people place their hope when all goes wrong and they or their loved ones find themselves in dangerous or compromising positions, believing the rooms within your walls to be sacred places where hope is given and lost, where life and death meet under the compassion of experienced doctors who work tirelessly to save lives, a place where the value of human life is recognized and placed upon the highest pedestal.

I used to believe that hospitals were places of healing, spots where angels in disguise worked endlessly to provide the best care for patients, walls that held hope and safety within them. You have shattered that illusion. I no longer believe hospitals to be places where hope is given and held, rather they are, in my experience, places where hope is placed in your hands and then savagely ripped away, institutions where your wounds are sewn up, only to have the stitches torn out, leaving deeper injuries than the originals. In my experience, I come to you broken and bleeding, crying out for help, for hope, for someone to hear me, and as quickly as steady myself on your land after drifting and being thrown about by the waves, you rip the solid ground out from under me, tossing my body back into the waves, more exhausted than I was when I began seeking your refuge.

You claim to like puzzles, searching for the missing pieces and taking pride in the product when it is done, hanging it up on your wall like a physical visual of your ability and intelligence. I am learning, however, that what you really mean is that you like short, sweet puzzles with all traditionally shaped pieces, fitting together in under a day and with all the pieces included in the box. Puzzles such as myself, with our missing pieces, lack of clarity in the final picture, and mixture of pieces from other puzzles that must be sorted through before you can tell what our final image can be are too burdensome for you and shatter your perfect illusion that you project to the public; we show that not every puzzle looks like the finished picture of the product on the box.

I used to believe that hospitals placed the highest value on human lives; I used to believe in your promise to provide care; I used to believe that you prioritize patient care. I was wrong. You have placed a dollar sign above my life, decided that the value of my life was less than the amount you could be sued if something went wrong. You have blocked my doctor from helping me, going directly against your promise to provide patient care. I am learning that “patient care” is caring for patients with predictable outcomes that promote business and line your pockets, while abandoning those whose outcomes may be less desirable, but require and deserve care nonetheless. You see me as all the things that could go wrong, basing my worth on the potential outcomes and consequences you could experience. But, I am more than all the ways my health could potentially impact you.

My name is Olivia Cyr. I am 19 years old. I love school and have been a straight “A” student my whole life, seeking out knowledge and learning whenever the opportunity arises. I have chronic illnesses, but they will never have me. I have been a visiting resource for five years for DCF, meeting two girls who I love with all my heart and are the reason I keep fighting. I promised that they would not lose me, that I would not suddenly disappear the same way that so many others have. But you, hospital executives, are making that promise a very difficult one to keep. I want to fight not only for myself, but for those who cannot fight for themselves, to repay those amazing providers who advocated for me by passing on the favor.

I would not expect you to know this about my life. After all, you have never met me personally, and I am nothing more than a name on your paper, and on a risk versus benefit analysis somewhere in your office. What I would expect from people who run a hospital, who control the treatment of some of the most vulnerable populations is that you would realize that every patient who walks through your door is more than a dollar sign, or potential liability, that you would see their lives as having value and understand that we all have hopes, dreams, plans for the future, and those we love who we are fighting to stay for. I would expect that those in a place of healing make at least a passable attempt to do just that.

But, despite all of the damage you’ve caused me and my health, I thank you. I thank you for shattering my deeply believed illusion of you, and I thank you for giving new meaning to my life. Because my life does have value, and I solemnly swear that I will use every moment to not only advocate for others the same way that amazing providers have for me, but to dedicate my life to shattering society’s rosy view of you, exposing your actions so that your greed and apathy will be met with outrage and not accepted as a normal part of American medicine.

A patient whose life has value


Photo credit: Muanpare wanpen/Getty Images

Originally published: August 8, 2021
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