Opinion: Expanding health care access to those who need it – CTPost

Opinion: Expanding health care access to those who need it – CTPost

The State Department of Public Health COVID-19 testing site at the North End Library in Bridgeport in December.
Before I became a doctor, it was well known among my family and friends that I could not enter a hospital. My skin would turn a pale green, my heart would race, and my palms would sweat. It wasn’t until I was forced to care for a loved one who was hospitalized that I finally overcame this phobia. Ultimately, I came to the realization that it was not the sight of those suffering that overwhelmed me but rather my inability to help.
As I followed my journey in medicine and that reaction to the ill became an afterthought, I was able to care for those suffering and I no longer felt powerless. This was until I met Bella (name changed for privacy of the patient) in my allergy clinic.
Bella was 9 years old when she came to see me, only a few months after leaving a detention camp in Texas. Like so many others she had been separated from her family, and alone. I knew nothing of her journey across the border and nothing of her plight, but the trauma could be read on her face and felt from her body language.
She was quiet, reserved and distrustful. Her mother shared Bella’s medical history through tears, switching back and forth from the details of the story and her own feelings of failure to protect her daughter. Bella, while held in the detention camp, experienced two episodes of anaphylaxis, the most severe form of an allergic reaction, and her mother could do nothing. By the time she saw me, Bella was avoiding several foods and without the help of allergy testing, she would need to continue to avoid them. She also had no access to an epinephrine autoinjector, the lifesaving medication used during an anaphylactic reaction.
Her mother, who was desperate for answers, saved enough money to come to our clinic, but the testing would be thousands of dollars — a cost she simply could not incur without paralyzing her family with debt. While we were able to provide some care for her, it was not enough, and now when I think about Bella, those same physical sensations overcome me because I feel that same sense of powerlessness.
On Thursday, the state Legislature’s Human Services Committee was scheduled to hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 284 to increase the age from 8 to 18 for income-eligible residents to obtain medical assistance regardless of immigration status. I stand in support of this bill and have seen firsthand its potential to save and change lives.
The seal of our incredible state of Connecticut reads “Qui transtulit sustinet” — “He who transplanted sustains.” To me, it suggests an obligation to support its residents to help them to sustain and eventually thrive, and that obligation is not solely for those born here.
I am the son of an Iraqi refugee who sustained, and ultimately thrived, because the countries that took him in, Israel and the United States, allowed him to do so. I now ask you to allow me to do the same for the next generation.
Dr. Gary Soffer is a pediatric allergist in Greenwich, Norwalk and New Haven and an assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine.

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