Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Depending on the Kindness of Strangers

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 10:35 PM

In the poker game of life, young Brady Hardin drew a lousy hand.

Born in St. Charles Medical Center in Bend in 1963 1993, he suffered from a rare, complex medical syndrome that caused cerebral palsy and inadequate development of his lungs, bladder and kidneys. Doctors at Oregon Health Sciences University, where he was transferred shortly after birth, urged his parents to let them take him off life support because if he survived he was likely to be "a vegetable."

Brady beat the odds and lived - and he's far from being a vegetable. Today he's a student at Mountain View High School who, according to his parents, gets around well in his electric wheelchair and "enjoys all the normal things most teenagers his age like: movies, videos games, sports" - especially the University of Oregon Ducks - "and girls."

But now Brady faces another huge hurdle - not a medical one this time, but a financial one: His family needs to come up with money for a kidney transplant. The Children's Organ Transplant Association (COTA), a nationwide organization that raises money for kids like Brady, has started a fund drive for him.

It estimates the transplant will cost $60,000. So far, according to the COTA website, the drive has raised barely $3,000.

The work of organizations like COTA is admirable. That they have to exist in the so-called "greatest county in the world" is a national embarrassment.

If Brady Hardin lived in "socialist" Canada, money wouldn't be an obstacle to getting a life-prolonging and life-enhancing transplant; the country's health care plan would cover it, as well as the expensive (around $1,500 a month) drugs that transplant recipients must take to prevent organ rejection. There's a waiting list for transplants in Canada, but that's because there aren't enough replacement kidneys to go around, not because people who need them can't pay for them.

The American way of dealing with kidney patients wastes both lives and money. A 1997 study found that the mortality rate for kidney disease was 47% higher in the US than in Canada. Canadian patients were twice as likely as Americans to receive transplants. Because American patients spent more time on dialysis and were more likely to end up needing hospital care for complications, monthly treatment costs were significantly higher than in Canada.

This stupidity is unlikely to end in Brady's lifetime, or mine, or yours, because our paralyzed political system can't achieve even the most rudimentary reform of health care, much less a wholesale makeover along the lines of the Canadian system.

After finding out about Brady Hardin I went to the COTA website and made a contribution. I hope you do the same. And after you do, please give some thought to how barbaric it is that kids like Brady and their parents have to beg for money from strangers to obtain what citizens of virtually every other developed nation receive as a fundamental right.

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