Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dear President Obama - from a 6th grade teacher

My sixth grade teacher recently came to the restaurant that I work at to give me a copy of this letter and inform me that he too was diagnosed with a brain tumor, we still laugh that his neurosurgeon gave him a better looking mohawk than mine did.  Anyways, he believes in Obama's health care act, just as I do, because without it, my family would have lost everything when I got sick.  I spent 3 straight months in Hasbro Hospital; without health insurance we would have lost our home three times over.  Thankfully I am now triple covered through both my parents and the government because of Obamacare and truthfully I support it 100%.

Dear President Obama,
                  My name is Richard Jon Saborio.  I am 49 years old and I am a 5th grade teacher at Eldredge Elementary School in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.   I have been teaching in East Greenwich for the last fourteen years and I have an incredible story of survival and healthcare to share with you.  I know you are a very busy man, but I hope my story will give you strength to help carry you through this election season.
                  My wife’s parents, Leo and Cecile Nadeau, are two regular blue collar working class folks who saved their money for many years to take their entire family on a cruise to the western Caribbean.  Leo and Cecille generously paid for all three of their daughters and their husbands, and all of their grandchildren to go on this cruise.  Leo and Cecile wanted to create a family memory by taking all eleven of us on this cruise to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary (I’ve enclosed a photo of my family and a photo of all eleven of us on the cruise at the captain’s dinner).  We set sail on the ship, The Carnival Legend, on July 1, 2012.
                  I have always been very athletic and a healthy guy, so what happened next on the cruise was a complete shock to everyone.  Around 3:40 a.m., on the morning of July 2, I awoke to the smell of burning plastic in our room (it seemed like it was coming through the air conditioning unit), so I woke up my wife.  She couldn’t smell anything, but for me the smell was growing stronger and stronger.  I was feeling so nauseous that I had to leave our room to get some fresh air.
                  I stepped out into the hallway and the smell was even stronger, so I knew something must be wrong with the ship.  I took the stairs down to Guest Services (1st floor) and there were three employees behind the counter and a few guests milling about.  No one I asked could smell the burning plastic and here’s where things started to get really crazy.  I became just like the character William Shatner played on an old episode of the television series, The Twilight Zone.  It was the episode when Shatner was flying on a plane and he went crazy because he was the only person on the plane who could see a gremlin ripping apart the plane’s wing as they were flying.  Just like Shatner’s character, I became a crazed man and I started rushing back and forth, in front of the Guest Services counter, ranting and raving about the smell only I could sense.  I must have frightened quite a few passengers.
                  I couldn’t take the smell anymore, so I ran to the elevator, got on, and took it to the 11th floor so I could go outside on the deck and get some fresh air.  The elevator doors closed, sealing me inside the compartment and suddenly the smell filled the compartment; I couldn’t escape the smell and the feeling of panic rising within me.  The ride up the belly of the ship was surreal because my senses were extremely heightened and out of control.  As I rose into the air I gazed out the glass wall of the elevator at a giant, 13 story painting of The Colossus of Rhodes (the ancient God Helios; God of the sun).  What an incredible sight!

                  I reached the 11th floor, the doors opened, and I burst out of the elevator like a racehorse out of the starting gate.  I ran right smack into the burning plastic smell and started to get really scared.  Despite my crazed state, I could still think clearly because I knew to stay away from the ship’s railing; the ship was traveling at a speed of 12 knots and I didn’t want to fall overboard.  There were quite a few people still up, strolling on the deck and enjoying the beautiful starlit night.  I stayed close to the inner walls of the ship until I eventually collapsed onto my knees and called out for help.  The ship’s medical team quickly sprung into action and was at my side in no time.  I never lost consciousness, I knew who I was, where I was, and my room number.  The crew called my room and had my wife, Gail, come up on deck.  Gail witnessed all that happened next and this is her description of what she saw when she found me on the deck.  For me, I only felt like I was shivering a little and a bit nauseous.
                  I was on my knees, my right arm was shaking violently and the right side of my face looked like my skin was boiling.  According to Gail, my skin seemed to have lots of little bubble/bumps pulsating (like electric impulses) outwards.  The ship’s medical crew was very professional and attentive (I was aware, awake and alert throughout this whole experience.).  They checked my eyes, but my pupils wouldn’t dilate and they noticed my face was not symmetrical.  I’ve always had an asymmetrical face (like Sylvester Stallone) but my wife loves it; she says it adds character to my face.  The crew determined, based on my lopsided face, that I was most likely having a stroke.  The medical crew whisked me down to the ship’s infirmary where they continued to run tests and check on me.  At this point, I lost control of my bodily functions and I urinated all over myself.  The Carnival Cruise representative told Gail that we had to get off the ship at the next stop because they would not be able to provide adequate care for me anymore.  Holy shiitake mushrooms!  Fortunately for me, we were almost ready to dock at our first port of call, Cozumel, Mexico. My wife, my rock, my friend, my soul mate kept her cool at the news, but we both were freaking out inside.  What were we going to do about our daughter?  What will happen next?
                  When we docked in Cozumel, an ambulance took us to the local hospital, Medica San Migel Clinica Hospital.  This is when I truly realized how lucky I am to be married to the most amazing woman in the world:  I’m married to Super Gail.  It was also the moment when my wife’s amazing race against all odds and the clock began.  She set out on a wild journey that saved my life. 
                  Prior to leaving the ship, Gail had briefly informed her parents and our daughter, Bella (a.k.a. the goose), that I was a tad bit sick (possibly from food poisoning) and we were going to have to get off the ship.  Gail told The Goose and her parents that we would definitely be re-boarding the ship later that day, before it leaves for the next port of call.  At this point the realization that Carnival was not going to allow us back onboard had settled in and Gail had a gazillion Herculean tasks to complete before the ship sails away at 3:00 p.m.  Super Gail was able to go to the United States Consulate, return to the ship and pack all of our belongings, comfort our frightened, yet brave child (who was told to remain on the ship, with our extended family, for the rest of the journey), rally a small army of strangers to help us, and make countless calls to our insurance provider and credit card companies in order to get a plane to fly me back to the United States for proper medical care.  It is a testament to her determination and good-hearted disposition that so many strangers went completely out of their way to make things happen for us.  There really are a lot of good people in this world and that night, we met many of them.
                  All I can say is, “Thank God we have good health insurance coverage.  Our family is covered under my wife’s plan.  She is the AP art teacher at South Kingstown High School, in South Kingstown, Rhode Island.  Our health plan is with Blue Shield Blue Cross of Rhode Island.  Even with an excellent plan, both cash and credit card payments were demanded in Mexico before services would be rendered.  Blue Cross charged us about $20,000 for the private plane they booked to fly us to the United States.  Also, before they would let us leave the hospital in Cozumel, they told Gail she would have to pay an additional $43,000.  At this news, fountains of tears spurt from Super Gail’s eyes (we’re not wealthy people and that was a ton of money for us to come up with), until the man said….pesos!  A tide of relief washed over Gail when she realized it really cost us  ”only”  $4,300 in American currency (still a lot of cake). Because we had good credit, cash, and were able to stretch our credit card limit, the plane was ordered to come and get us.  Yaaaay…we were freaked out by what we now owed, but relieved to know we’d be going back to our country.
                  An Air Ambulance, operated by American Jets (love the name), came to our rescue.  It was totally awesome!  The jet flew at an altitude of 45,000 feet (higher than commercial airlines so they can fly super-fast).  Our American Jets rescue team consisted of two really cool top-gun pilots; Manuel Fuentes and Zek Mensburger (spelling?).  There were also two emergency medical techs in very fashionable jumpsuits; Di Bell and Andy Lewis.  The plane was long, thin, and shaped like a bullet.  It had enough room for the America Jets’ rescue team, a gurney for me and a seat for Super G.  As I stated earlier, this flight cost about $20,000 (payable immediately; before services rendered).  Thank goodness and our fiscal prudence that we have fabulous credit and a high enough limit to put the entire $20,000 on our credit card.  I couldn’t help but think about people who don’t have good credit or access to such a high limit.  What would they do?  What would happen to them?  Gail and I were blessed to have so many good people go totally out of their way to help us.  Like I said earlier, there are a lot of good people in this world.
                  We were flown to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and then taken by ambulance to Broward Health North Broward Medical Center.  Once again, we felt blessed because we were surrounded by angels.  I have the most incredible respect for the nurses at Broward Medical Center.  They showered us with love, compassion, and expertise as they took care of us for the longest week of our lives.  Those nurses work so hard and are so giving of their time and energy to help others.  I was invigorated by their dedication.  We certainly have excellent medical care in the United States.  I feel very fortunate to be a citizen of the Unite States of America.  I’m proud to be an American.
                  On July 7, I was given the go ahead by my doctors to fly home to Rhode Island and continue to seek treatment for my illness.  My dad, a retired anesthesiologist was able to get me an appointment with a neurosurgeon that specializes in brain tumors.  On July 9, I met with Dr. David Goldman.  I was diagnosed with a slow growing brain tumor on my right temporal lobe.  Dr. Goldman performed surgery to remove and biopsy my tumor on July 18 (exactly one month since my last day of school).  He successfully removed 50% of the tumor.  He told me he didn’t take it all because the tumor is like a branch that is spread out through my brain and that he wanted to leave enough of my brain so I could still function.  I have an appointment with him on July 26 to get the pathology results of my biopsy and determine the next steps.  I already know what is going to happen.  I’m going to be treated with chemotherapy and radiation to destroy the rest of my tumor.  I know I will get very sick and weak from the treatments, but I’m not worried.  I truly believe I will get better.
                  This may sound a bit odd, but I look at my illness as if it’s a gift.  I’ve been given the gift of a second chance.  Not many people can say that.  I can’t help but compare my situation to those unfortunate people who were killed in the movie theatre during the Batman premiere.  They never got a second chance, but I did.  I feel like I’ve been given this gift for a reason.  I was always a good person (but, I didn’t always make the best choices), friend, husband, father, and teacher.  I feel like I’m a much better person now and I look at life through fresh eyes.  My wife and I have a new saying we share daily; “Everything old is new again.”
                  The reason I wanted to write to you, President Obama, is because I believe in you and all you do for others.  You too, are a good man.  You have the gift.  I am neither democrat nor republican.  I always vote for the individual, not the party.  My wife and I voted for you in 2008 and we will definitely vote for you in 2012.  I know you are going to win this election.
                  My family’s experience during this medical crisis has helped me focus on all you’re doing to help all citizens of the United States receive proper health care coverage.  I am recovering well and a lot of it has to do with the fact that we’re not worried about losing our jobs or our house due to crushing medical expenses.  We feel lucky.  Your health care plan, which I proudly call Obamacare, is a beautiful piece of legislation.  It highlights your attention to detail; how you leave no stone unturned in your quest to give all Americans what they need and deserve.
                  People say you lost focus by not quickly fixing the economy.  I believe the opposite to be true.  Obamacare is desperately needed by many people; it will be good for everyone.  Lately, I’ve been reading lots of articles about your health care plan and I’m very excited about it.  I want everyone to have the same health care opportunities as me.  Why should I be different from anyone else?  You have done a great job focusing on getting your health care plan passed.
                  We recently moved to the town in which I teach.  I live in the land of staunch, die-hard republicans.  I am a highly respected member of this community and I plan on planting your campaign sign on my front lawn for all to see.  I am willing to speak out publicly to support you and Obamacare, and I believe I can have an influence on the voters in this town.  I know you will get reelected and continue to do great things for our country.  I am certain you will, one day, be remembered as one of our greatest presidents of all time.  It is an honor and I feel privileged to be able to bear witness to your actions and deeds.  I am proud to serve you.  You truly are a good man and a great president.  Keep the hope alive….I believe in you.
                  Respectfully yours,

                  Richard Jon Saborio

1 comment:

  1. This is such an amazing story... I am so glad you shared it!