Crying in Court: The Rawness of Health Crisis Backlash
Tears come when they come. In an entire year of health crisis, there was just two times I cried to another human over my health concerns — once upon being dropped off at the ER amidst CoVid, leaving my husband in the car behind me while my lung was collapsing. The second time was explaining to my mom my sadness over this disease, Thoracic Endometriosis, taking my own chance at being a mom.
That’s really all I can remember of opening up and sharing my tears. But lately, I’ve cried to strangers over the phone. It makes me feel absolutely pathetic, and I can’t help it.
Yesterday I had to explain to a judge in a telephone-hearing why I appealed late to an Unemployment issue that arrived late in the mail last December. I appealed it in January, and at the time didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I learned that you have 15 days to appeal, that’s it. My other mistake was not changing my address in the Unemployment system when I moved, and they are surely reprimanding me for that as well.
If we back this story up, it took the Arizona Department of Economic Security and my Employer over 6 months to even hint that the benefits I received last summer, during my personal health crisis, were actually disqualified. Last summer I received Unemployment benefits, and then 6 months later they asked for those benefits to be sent back. And now I am stuck with a bill for $4,000, to give back the money that was given to help me through a tough time, when I was underemployed but also so ill I had to move to Atlanta for an 8-hour surgery involving my lung, diaphragm and many other organs.
The unfairness of this situation really kills me. As I explained to the judge what the past year has been like, and I became overwhelmed by all the pitfalls of health crisis, I couldn’t stop the tears from coming.
The root of the issue is greater than Arizona Department of Economic Security. The root of this is working as a College Adjunct and freelance filmmaker for up to 6 years and not having health insurance, or enough money to cover the cost of health insurance, when I am suddenly in the throes of dire health crisis. I signed on to this, but it has made my journey through illness unduly heartbreaking.
When my lung collapsed the first time, it was unexpected. I lived 38 years without a single ER experience, and I had health insurance whenever I could afford it. I cobbled jobs together between film education and filmmaking, so sometimes I had a lucrative season and sometimes I was destitute. Fortunately, when I had a medical emergency in 2019, the hospital helped me enroll in the state health insurance plan.
With this state insurance, I received great care from Banner University Medical Center Phoenix. To the best of the medical community’s ability, I was cared for. They were not trained in the specialized treatment I needed to stop my lung from collapsing, but they were steadfast in their attention and gave their best. I truly felt that from them, and will always be grateful to those people. I see their faces in my mind and feel love.
But today I am working through the backlash of asking for help in health crisis, the only time in my life when I asked for the Unemployment Insurance that I also paid into as a full-time teacher in 2019. It was too good to be true, based on a policy that Educators do not ever qualify for summer benefits, even though I do work for an educational institution over the summer term.
As I explained to the judge that I did all I could to apply and follow along with filing protocol, I pleaded my ignorance in understanding this system.
I asked for help. Help came. Then a bill came for $4,000. This is my experience, but the deeper experience is that I have been teaching and taking care of students while suffering a tragic illness, while recovering from two major lung surgeries. I never turn down work, and so I end up taking care of students while I need to be taking care of myself. In the end there is little reward for it, but now this punishment.