01 March 2007

The Greatest Country on Earth Handles a Toothache

Last night, just as my son was coming to tell me goodnight, I came across a news article about a boy not much younger than he is, a story I could not get my head around. A story about a 12-year-old boy who died from an abscessed tooth.

Deamonte Driver, some mother's son, died from an abscessed tooth.

In this country. In this wealthyass country, a child DIED from a friggin' TOOTHACHE.


So, I'm reading this story, hand over my mouth, not believing it, and my son asked me what was wrong. He looked at the picture of Deamonte Driver, showing the scar from his brain operation as a result of his abscessed tooth, and asked, "But, Anyu, how can that even happen? Can a kid really die from a bad tooth? Couldn't their dentist just fix it?"

Yes, a dentist could've easily fixed it. In fact, the tooth never would've been abscessed at all, had Deamonte had regular dentist checkups, the same yearly checkup my son complains about.

The family did not have health insurance. This American family could not afford health insurance. The abscess in Deamonte's tooth got so bad it spread to his brain. Before he died, Deamonte had emergency brain surgery, had seizures and complications afterward, had a second brain operation, then physical and occupational therapy.

Oh, and they extracted the tooth.
  • Diamonte's medical bills totalled out at $250,000.
  • Extracting the tooth would've cost less than $100.
  • With regular checkups, he wouldn't have needed the extraction to begin with.
How about a comprehensive universal health care system, people? Is this enough of a wake-up call? When is the US going to realize that investing in our society benefits all of us? Preventive health care would save money in the long run; $250,000 worth of savings, in this case.

I am so sick of the Blame The Victim mentality in this country, that whole bootstrapper thing -- you know what I'm talking about: If this family had just pulled itself up by the bootstraps and worked a little harder, why they could've had health insurance like the productive citizens of this great land! If they couldn't afford it, well, they must've been Doing Something Wrong. They must be lazy. Probably a single mother. Probably she didn't have control over those kids anyway, I mean, they didn't even brush their teeth enough! She probably spent their toothbrush money on malt liquor.

No, do not even try and tell me I'm being dramatic, because you know there are people who actually think that shit. 

I am sick of the shortsightedness of this country in everything from health care and education to roads and building construction. Seriously, these things are handled (on the whole) by choosing whatever costs the least in the short run. Whatever is cheapest and keeps things afloat during our watch, that's what we go with. No one wants to pay higher taxes. No one wants to invest in anything or anyone except themselves.

Has anyone seen the UNICEF report on international child welfare for this year? Check this out: (from the International Herald Tribune, 14-Feb-07)
The United States and Britain ranked at the bottom of a U.N. survey of child welfare in 21 rich countries that assessed everything from infant mortality to whether children ate dinner with their parents or were bullied at school.
The Netherlands, followed by Sweden, Denmark and Finland, finished at the top while the U.S. was 20th and Britain 21st in the rankings released Wednesday by UNICEF in Berlin.
One of the study's researchers, Jonathan Bradshaw, said children fared worse in the U.S. and Britain — despite high overall levels of national wealth — because of greater economic inequality and poor levels of public support for families.
"They don't invest as much in children as continental European countries do," he said.
Bradshaw cited thin day care services in both countries, and poorer health coverage and preventative care for children in the U.S.

So there you have it. As rich as we collectively are, we are failing our children because we are not interested in a collective, because we are interested in individuals who can pull themselves up by the bootstraps.

Funny how the top ranked countries have universal health care. The topped ranked countries are interested in a collective. They are investing in their society.

I wonder when a Norwegian or Finnish kid last died of a toothache?

I am ashamed and angered and so, so sad that this little boy died over something so goddamned stupid and unnecessary. I am amazed by the fact that had he been born Swedish, instead of American, he would still be alive.


  1. Yeah, everyone was so mad about that here. It's craziness. I've never even heard of such a thing, not even in medieval societies where everyone died of looking at witches. I mean, the poor little kids probably couldn't even sleep, it bothered him so much.


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