Pulitizer prize winning author Taylor Branch spoke at a rally attended by over 120 people at the Church of the Redeemer on Sunday afternoon.
Also speaking were two local residents with horrible stories of mistreatment by their insurance companies.
Gloria Brennan’s insurance was cancelled not because she had a pre-existing condition, not becaue she was sick, but because she went to a new OB-GYNC who happened to be a cancer specialist.
Stuart Markoff is a kidney transplant patient whose insurance company denied him immune suppressent drugs, which he needed to stop his body from rejecting hid kidney transplant. He had to drive one and a half hours each way to beg to get pills to tide him over until he got this straightened out. It took one month to straighten of constant effort to get his insurance company to relent.
Maryland health care activist Vinny DeMarco, local activist Phyllis Hammond, Dr. Alejandro Necohea of Doctors for America and Dr. Josephine Ball-Sivels of the Baltimire NAACP also spoke.
For those of you that have joined us for a day on the road or have been following us closely you have heard us talk about Bishop Cephas Richardson. We had never met the Bishop before today. All we knew was that we was a Pastor of the Greater Pentecostal Church in Baltimore. He had responded to an event post we placed on the Barack Obama website. Athena called him to follow up. Ever since that first phone call he has called us every day multiple times to make sure we are ok on the road.
The excitement was building… today was the day we would finally get to meet the man that had been behind so many prayers and acts of kindness. Well we were far from disappointed. After the rally in Baltimore he took to the streets and marched in the rain. He called up the local TV station and got us an interview ten minutes after he called. He describes himself as the Eagle that is watching over us on our journey. We cannot thank him enough for the inspiration and thoughtfulness he has provided. We look forward to seeing him and all of the new friends we have met along the highway to health care as we walk the final stretch into DC on Wednesday.
Jim our fabulous RV driver gets uncensored access to life on the front lines of the march for health care. He follows our every move. He is a part of the team. We wanted to take a minute to share what his perception is behind the madness. For him it can be madness. We have spilled more than one cup of coffee and lost more than one object on what we like to call the Barney Bus.
It’s 5:07 pm and I’m clicking away on the Barney Bus next to our favorite RV driver, Jim. None of us can say enough good things about Jim. He’s gone way above and beyond for us. One example from today is when he called this morning to say “I just wanted to let you know you guys are almost there..almost at your stop and I’m really proud.”
We are so lucky to have him with us. I can’t imagine this trip without our Jim. And the various other sources of kindness and inspiration we were treated today were as equally as humbling.
For example, Georgeanne Koehler called us to check in! Beautiful timing, too, it was right after we walked about a mile uphill. Immediately I could see her there again, in her green coat, a little hunched over, taking her body as far as it could go in the new boots. How do you not finish that hill with such an image in your head?
Today’s 19 miles were exhausting! I really relied on these extraordinary moments for fueling.
Bishop Richardson of Maryland has called us three times today on a Sunday to check in and say “keep going, stay safe.” A man pulled over to side of the road to tell us he’s from Georgia, has four kids, none of which have insurance. At lunch we met a guy at a local dive who isn’t a big fan of our President, but supports reform and asked if we could accept a donation.
We also had new people join us again. Two of these new folks were my new friends, Satie, who is 4 and Leo,8. Ivanka put is best, “we were really doing it for these kids, because they are our future.”
Also, we managed to sneak in a little fun throughout the day. Dave came up with fabulous military marching chants, really working the free-stylin’ chantin’. He’s also in trouble with his wife for not wearing his hat so a prize was offered to the first person that could steal it our of his pockets ( Antoinette won, her prize is a dollar, I’m probably not going to pay it.) We also just straight up laughed more today! Maybe it’s pure exhaustion aiding to the giggle fits, by now too there are a number of inside jokes we kick around like the stones on the ground.
Honestly, I think a lot of what kept me going was “two miles up the road is a bathroom break.: We had to stop for extra breaks today, folks are taping up their feet, running out of special Band-Aids for blisters..but we’ve already started brainstorming how to beat tomorrow.
By the end of the day today we had logged another 19 miles. We could not have asked for a better day. The roads were clear, the sun was shining and the temperature was above freezing. However today has been the most challenging day for all of us yet. The exhaustion has started to kick in, the blisters have started to pop up, muscles hurt that we never new existed and we were on a very desolate stretch of road. As I walked down the highway it gave me time to reflect and think about all of the reasons why I was out there doing this walk. I thought about the people who had touched my life with their health care stories of the course of this campaign. I thought about Melanie Shouse.I thought about the 1,000 people who will die over the course of the walk. I thought about my family. I thought about all of the people we have just met while walking down the road. It renewed my determination and conviction to make it to Washington. We all knew this would not be easy. We ended the day with a candle light vigil. As we reflected on the day I realized I was not alone in my thoughts as I walking. I am blessed to be with a group of extraordinary individuals who despite all obstacles also found the same strength and conviction I did while walking along the Pulaski Highway. It was a moment of true solidarity.
This is the second day we have spent on Pulaski Highway. Despite the long road and its repetitiveness s we managed to keep moving and chanting as we pushed through. The number of supporter honks is increasing daily. Today a man actually pulled to the side of the road because he wanted to let us know how inspired he was by what he saw. He was from Georgia and has four kids with no health insurance. Also we were thrilled to have Dr. Gonzalez join us for the day. She provided the group with new energy and inspiration.
Amy Fitzpatrick doesn't get health care through her part-time job and can't afford to see her doctor or the prescriptions she needs. She's marching to make health care a right for everyone.
Bill West's son has a chronic condition. If his son is ever without a job, he won't be able to get coverage. Bill's family rates have gone up 48%. Bill's marching because he doesn't know when this is going to stop.
Every member of Athena Ford's family has been failed by our health care system. She's marching to change the system, because the costs are too high if we don't.
Antoinette Kraus's mother and sister have pre-existing conditions. Her sister, a veteran, has more than $40,000 in medical debt. She's marching for health reform for her family and everyone who's fallen through the cracks of our health care system.