In 1979 when I was eight years old I had appendicitis. My appendix ruptured spreading the infection around leading to peritonitis. I was in intensive care for a long time afterward where my condition deteriorated until I was a candidate for experimental antibiotics. Fortunately, the treatment worked very well and after a few months I was back in school again.
Operations, weeks in the hospital, ICU, and experimental antibiotics. Even in 1979 these things weren’t cheap. My parents were still very young, probably younger than you can imagine, their careers hadn’t even begun. And even though they were responsible and hard-working, these costs were likely more than they had ever made in their entire lives.
I recall rolling through the hospital in a wheelchair after being discharged, happy to get to go home. We stopped at the clerk’s office to settle the bill, it was pages and pages of typewritten charges. I don’t remember the number, but I do remember looking at the bottom line and that it was the largest sum I had ever seen written.
My mom made a point to show me how she peeled the MediCal stickers from the little sheet and placed them onto the bill. She explained that everyone in the whole state chipped in a little bit to pay for it. I didn’t fully understand, but inside I felt so thankful that everyone around me, everyone that I saw everywhere, had helped to save my life. I still feel that way.
Fast forward to today, three decades later, mid-April. It’s around this time of year when we each see the full year’s taxes. It’s easy to feel overburdened or even cheated. But I’ve never felt this way about taxes. To me the things I’m paying for are a palpable, visceral part of who I am. And each year I wonder how many other people I help with my contribution. And each year, I’m thankful to all the people that helped me.
So, thank you Californians who paid for MediCal and my second chance to live. Thanks for paying for my schools, the university, the parks, the roads, and the vaccines. All of those things gave this poor kid a leg up, I’m so grateful for your generosity. I promise I won’t let you down.