This evening's episode of Bill Moyer's Journal featured several Americans struggling with serious health conditions for which they couldn't get adequate treatment because they lacked health insurance. One of them, Carlos Benitez, had been struggling for years with back pain that he was trying to treat with over the counter pain meds. The medications were causing bleeding into the stomach, and his blood loss was so great that he had to be hospitalized and transfused. He was hunched over, had limited neck mobility and had lost seven inches in height. Of course, the minute I saw him, I recognized that he had ankylosing spondylitis, and the diagnosis was confirmed by the doctors that he was able to see as a result of his participation in the documentary.
What surprised me was that the doctors immediately started talking about surgery. he could still drive, and he had some neck mobility. After exploring surgery options in Mexico, he was able to get spinal surgery for free as a result of the documentary. The physicians were able to restore four inches of his height, and he was pain-free several months later.
The structure of the documentary didn't allow them to go into a lot of detail about life with AS. I worry that it left the impression that surgery is a cure. But it was interesting to finally see someone talking about AS on national TV.
Labels: documentary, health insurance, surgery, television, treatment