Swirling around the great debates about our economy, and real worries and financial turmoil, are the very basic issues of individuals in America getting the healthcare they need – and deserve. This was brought home to me yet again this past Saturday evening when, as a local board member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I attended their "Light the Night" walk in Tacoma, Washington. That's where I met 30-year-old Jamie Johnston.

Jamie showing her tattooJamie's tattoo

Jamie is a mother of a second-grade girl and a stay-at-home mom. She is also a 2-year AML leukemia survivor who had no health insurance. It all started when she had terrible mouth sores, red dots across her belly, and then bleeding that wouldn't stop from a torn toenail. Plus she was dead tired. The young ER doc patted her shoulder and told her she probably had mono. Then later, after blood test results showed her platelets were beyond being dangerously low, he matter of factly told her – while she was lying on a gurney – that she had leukemia. Then he was gone, never to return. Jamie was shipped off to a cancer center by ambulance.

The good news is she ended up with a great doctor who, Jamie believes, saved her life. But it took 6 weeks in the hospital. Now Jamie is doing really well and, with her doctor's permission, she has a tattoo on her lower leg. It says "Leukemia Survivor 2007." I'll post a picture of Jamie with it as she can't wait for the 5-year mark and to feel like she is really leaving cancer in "the rear view mirror."

Fortunately, in the end, most all of Jamie's expenses have been picked up by the State of Washington. Some would say, without treatment, she would be facing death. But how many people don't get this safety net of care? Or less life threatening conditions are overlooked or do not receive care?

The politicians know this has to be addressed. My only hope is, somehow, despite the economic "rescue plan," we can find an effective way to provide reasonable healthcare for all Americans.

Our plan at Patient Power is to produce programs about health insurance, or the lack thereof, and what to do about it, before the election. We welcome your suggestions for topics and guests. We hope you will see this as an example of Patient Power, unlike typical consumer health web sites, covering much more than the latest treatments and doing what's right and topical for all healthcare consumers.

Wishing you and your family the best of health!