(originally posted may 8, 2017 on medium.com)
People are dying on our watch. Right now. We are all responsible for those deaths. We are all responsible for further deaths that happen. That is true no matter who wins this BC election.
I say that not to place blame, but to point out that whether or not you are in a position of power, on May 9 if you can vote, you have the ability to shift what happens next in our province. And anything that happens after that — whether you vote or not- is something you chose to let happen. And even if the party you hate gets elected, we can all still hold them accountable and fight for a better province. I know it’s gotten nasty and smelly and really hard to stay tuned in, but we are pretty close to the end. Just hang in there. We’re all counting on you.
Help me get out the message that every person who votes, not just their votes, matter. That is how we get this government out of power. You and all the things that you are going through and the reasons- and feelings- you have do matter right now. Use them to motivate yourself and your friends and family to cast a ballot. NDP or Green or …..
Before you tell me why I’m wrong I’ve already voted so you can move on. My ballot is cast. So yelling won’t actually get you anywhere.
Instead, let me tell you a story. This is all true.
The other night, I was watching news about Obamacare being repealed and hearing stories of people who are going to lose their medical coverage, and I started to cry. It hurt my heart so much in part because I know that people will die, and also because for lack of medical care I did almost die. And I know people living here in bc that face a choice between food and medicine, life or death daily. I wish I was making that up.
I don’t talk about this very much in public, but I’ve spent years dealing with our medical system. I had a tick bite, and was untreated for a long period of time, so I developed advanced stage Lyme disease. Lack of access to care literally almost killed me. I was going blind and was taking nitroglycerin for my heart almost daily, could barely walk, and couldn’t find my way around my own neighbourhood in the West End, because I would get lost. There were lots of tests but no answers for us. When I was clearly dying, because of my heart, after the BC medical system failed me, Mark flew me to the US where a doctor saved my life. We had to go deeply into debt. After I was on the road to healing, we found that the only treatment available was private or not covered by BC med. Without a strong support system I would have died. The treatment was long and expensive. All of my doctors in Canada agreed and signed off on my diagnosis. Unlike many Lyme patients I had their support, just no treatment.
What should have been an easy fix years ago for me has turned into years of treatment because overworked docs dropped the ball after the original tick bite. I have irreparable damage to my body and I will need treatment for the rest of my life. I can’t calculate the cost of the MRIs/tests/specialist visits that were paid for by taxes. The second to last year of treatment we were audited for $12,000 in personal medical expenses — and that’s not counting the special diets, supplements and non-medical appointments we couldn’t claim or the expenses that were covered. Prior to my illness I had no major health issues. At one point I was almost put on fentanyl or methadone for pain. I really feel for people who are dealing with these addictions. Our system is so broken people are getting dangerous drugs instead of treatment because there is no time to solve what’s complicated. I’ve had doctors apologies to me for being unable to help me, one even in tears.
Even now, Lyme free, but with a body that was at war for a long time I have permanent damage, which requires multiple specialists and tests for my immune system. I have the beginnings of a proven medical regimen that is helping, but I don’t have a GP and I am unable to access the care I need through our medical system. Because of a shortage of doctors and super long wait times. I have a diagnosis my specialists agree on but my ability to get help is stalled. I desperately need medical tests and follow up, and referrals to other doctors but without a GP I’m in a feedback loop.
Going to the ER or a walk in clinic literally puts me at risk because my immune system is broken. So I am guaranteeing I will make myself very ill if I have to sit in a waiting room for several hours. I know several people in the same boat. I also knew someone who died from lack of care, and more people who have lost their houses paying for essential lifesaving private medical care, and medicines. Wait lists for everything are killing people, or they are going to the states to get MRI’s and cancer screening which can save their lives. Basic tests like vitamin D levels are no longer covered by MSP unless you see a specific specialist, which most people do not have access to. And all of us, whether you have a cold or something much worse are paying premiums that don’t actually go into our medical care.
People going broke paying for medicine is far more common that you would think in Canada, or at least in BC.
I know one party federally who has taken direct action in parliament to to change this situation, at least for people with Lyme disease — the Green Party. Provincially they are the only party with a comprehensive medical plan. So for those of you who think I’m voting on a single issue….. I am not.
I haven’t even touched on the critical state of our oceans and the dangerous policies being put into place that will cause irreparable damage. I’m not going to preach about the green stuff. You know what’s at stake and you either believe or don’t.
What I want to say is this: during my illness I’ve been supporting Mark’s amazing work, filming and studying our Southern Resident Orcas. It has been the dream of a lifetime and one of the most heartbreaking experiences of my life.
Granny, the subject of our documentary, who was the oldest living orca and Matriarch, was pronounced dead early this year — likely of starvation. Our documentary celebrating her amazing life has become a memorial. The last time she was seen, she was giving her salmon to one of the young whales in her family. She likely did not die from old age, but because she gave up her own food to feed children. That’s what true leaders do — they make sure the next generation lives on and are willing to make personal sacrifices.
So I’ll say it again. She died on our watch. Just like lots of people are dying right now.
Ask yourself what leaders will sacrifice themselves if needed to make sure future generations can live. Ask who is playing politics and look at actions and ask — would that be ok if that leader wasn’t my party, what about if they were my party? Do the actions of the party back up the words of the leader or are they for show? That’s how I decided who to vote for. And it is genuinely why I voted green.
I believe that this is bigger than a numbers game. This is life or death for real people. And if people claim to represent something and then take actions to directly contradict that claim, then I can’t vote for them to be in power. That’s not “just feelings” but it is an assessment of what is needed to govern. If the core fundamental integrity and philosophy of a group of people in power is missing, or the party says one thing but does not care about people’s well being in their actions, and doesn’t support everyone regardless of whether they agree and follow the same party line, if they aren’t in favour of democratic freedom or willing to talk to the media and be transparent, then how are they different from who we have? How is that a better option?
I want people who care about other people in power — who care about others not as a concept, or a game to win. People who can listen and play with others and have their priorities clear. People who are consistent in their decisions and don’t believe the end justifies the means. And who can admit when they are wrong and make non-partisan choices.
Honestly I don’t care who you vote for. I respect your democratic rights. If you are fed up with how things are you can do something positive about it. Our system isn’t great but it’s a tool we can use to change — so please please vote. Ignore the posturing and fear mongering and cast a ballot for the party you feel can impact things and represents your values. Don’t let anyone tell you your vote doesn’t matter. That’s not statistically true, or true in any way at all. You matter. Not just your vote, not just a bunch of numbers, but your actual feet walking down to the polling station and your hand marking an x, with all of the reasons that you have. And what you do the day after that matters too. You have a voice and you can use it.
I know you care, and you are frustrated and possibly scared — and I thank you for caring so much. Just keep breathing and remember many of us feel the same way, and you get to choose what you want to do now. So do something good — so that no matter what happens you can say, as one friend said to me today “I feel like I’ve done everything I can”. Remember we’re all doing our best, and I am not your enemy, I am your friend. I care and I want to see us all succeed. I am ok with you disagreeing with me, I support your right to do that — all I ask if that you try to bring about positive change and afford me the same right. And know you matter, not just your vote. Because whatever happens may 9- we can work together afterwards as long as we don’t burn bridges. We can save lives if we try.
you can also check out our podcast about orcas and oceans here: www.skaana.org