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The things we do for health care. image courtesy author COMMENTARY I BY SPIKE GILLESPIE Undercovered 111 recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of my “gay” marriage. This is a little odd for me, not because gay marriage is so hotly contested, but because I am not gay. After two divorces, I am even less marriageinterested than I am gay. A lack of health insurance prompted this shotgunish union last summer as my boyfriend Warren and I entered into a domestic partnershipa legal commitment commonly used by gay couples denied the right to a full-on, all-thetrimmings, official marriage. At the time, I was in chronic, excruciating pain, each monthly cycle triggering an avalanche of agony courtesy of a uterus full of fibroids. The crippling effect grew exponentially to the point that I was regularly bedridden for days on end, gobbling a collection of painkillers cobbled together from my own stash of squirreled-away Vicodin left over from dental work and whatever I might wheedle out of friends who had insurance that allowed them doctors’ visits to replenish as needed. I had no such luck, opportunity, or whatever you want to call it. Being uninsured, I could not afford to see a specialist. My boyfriend had done what he could to cheer me up while offering at-home remedies. One night, as I lay curled around the toilet waiting to vomit from the pain, he stood behind me singing a Phil Collins song, which, he explained, should hasten my hurling. When I scraped together money to talk to a surgeon who concurred that a hysterectomy would solve my problem, Warren, knowing I did not have $20,000, suggested maybe he could use the bumper of his pickup truck and a bungee cord to remove my lady parts. I smiled but demurred and wondered if it would be too much to ask my friends to throw yet another benefit for me. In 2005, when I was walking with a cane, every step as if upon broken glass, and of course uninsured, a nice friend-ofa-friend podiatrist in Chicago offered to fix my structurally deficient, rapidly deteriorating foot for free. I did need to pony up funds to cover transportation to-and-fro the Windy City, lodging while I recovered, and cash to cover the cost of the surgical suite and assistants. Even with the doctor’s services donated, and even after choosing local anesthesia to was looking at a pretty steep figure. So a bunch of friends and local musicians had an aptly titled Foot-the-Bill party and raised enough to cover it. Inspired by this kindness, I went on to similar good deeds. For three years I produced a calendar featuring well-known local musicians naked. The proceeds went to assist uninsured children. I hated that any children were uninsured. But I loved being able to help. \(And really, who can complain about “having” to call sexy musicians once a year and ask them While it is so good to live in a city that strives to take care of its ownlet’s face it, you can’t swing a sick cat in Austin without hitting a poster announcing a benefit to help a sick catI confess there have been many times when I’ve fantasized about having insurance. From time to time, I’ve lived this fantasy, but never for long or without one big catch or another. When my son was little, for example, he qualified for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. That allowed him the checkups required to play sports and, if we needed it, access to emergency care. It also landed us in a CHIP-taking pediatrician’s office, where Ia single mom and nonbelieverwas pressed with literature informing me that I must preach to my son the importance of marriage and religion. During my first marriage, I had insurance through my thenspouse. As we were divorcing, a swiftly growing, malignant ovarian tumor made its presence known. Insurance covered the surgery that saved my life. After the divorce, now with a pre-existing condition, I did not qualify for my own policy. So I could choose COBRAthe federal program that lets you keep paying for an employer policy for a while after you’d otherwise lose itor nothing. Correction: I could’ve gotten a policy, but not one that covered SEPTEMBER 4, 2009 TEXASOBSERVER.ORG 15