A Family in the Middle
Floyd starts his day in Iggy’s office feeling badly about his visit with Lauren. Iggy offers him no absolution, rather a slight reprimand for not heeding his warning. Dr. Frome is concerned for Lauren and hopes that Floyd’s visit doesn’t impede her progress. Just as Iggy is doling out some tough love Floyd is paged to the ED where he meets Jimmy, a 10-year-old boy who recently received a heart transplant. Test results show that Jimmy is experiencing acute rejection of the transplanted heart and Floyd sets out to find the cause.
At first, the parents offer no insight into conditions that may have led to the rejection. Mrs. Corrigan then shares the heart breaking but all-too-common story. Insurance paid for the transplant but didn’t cover the post-op medications. A single salaried, working class family, simply cannot afford the medication. This family is stuck in the healthcare void. Their income is too high to qualify for Medicaid and Community Care programs, but too low to be able to afford the necessary medication. Time for a Max Goodwin solution: get a divorce. A single, unemployed mother would qualify for Medicaid and the medication would be covered. The problem? Their faith, their belief system and the very foundation of their family would be the price to pay. At the though of divorce, the young boy runs away knowing that their faith doesn’t condone divorce.
Max requests the help of the Secret Service personnel in locating the boy and a reunited family discusses the how’s and the whys. The parents are willing to sacrifice anything to save their son, but at 10 years old, he knows only what he has been taught and is afraid of breaking the rules of their faith. Once again, Max has a solution. He asks Cardinal Mancini to talk with the family. The Cardinal tells Jimmy that after consultation with the Pope, it would be okay for his parents to divorce in this instance.
Max, who is decidedly not himself today, is only half paying attention at birthing class. He has not taken the jokes of death and dying well (the unknowns of cancer are infiltrating his mind) and the happy, soothing birthing class is not what his mood calls for. In a controlled outburst, Max speaks to a room full of expectant parents about maternal hemorrhaging and preeclampsia. After destroying the peaceful mood of the birthing class, he is ambushed in his office by Georgia. He lays his fears bare and begs of his wife to prepare for a life without him, just in case. She assures him that she is, but she isn’t going to let one moment of their time together be missed. She tells him he isn’t gone yet, and a single tear slides down Max’s cheek amidst their kiss.
Beyond the chemo, birthing classes, death jokes and demands of his job, what has Max so rattled today? The admittance of Willow to the ED with sepsis. He and Helen exchange some sharp words as this setback of a fellow chemo patient rattles him to his core. He feels guilty about not doing more when he noticed her cough earlier and is at a loss on how to handle the cancer patients laughing at their symptoms. Helen is adept at dealing with outbursts from cancer patients to she grants Max the space he needs to deal with his thoughts and emotions.
Evening closes on the Dam
As Lauren confesses feeling isolated to her group, Helen grapples with finding words to share in a letter to Lauren as a step forward in repairing the injured friendship. Kapoor enters Rohan as his email password and opens to a new way of communicating as he struggles to hold on to his tried and true ways and embrace change. Iggy and his daughter are enjoying a sleepover in his office, time together to share special time, but in a less scary place.
After the night passes, the day dawns in the chemo room where three are gathered around the table, a more solemn and less jovial mood. As the quiet envelopes them, Willow enters the room with a musical reference and a collective breath is released from the group. As they tell her they were worried, Max tries on his cancer humor for size: “For a minute there, we thought you were Croaklahoma”. Just like that, the mood around the table returns as they exchange more cancer related musical titles and resume their laughter. This time, Max joins the laughter.
The acting, the storytelling, the way it all comes together in sequence and becomes more familiar as the weeks pass are all brilliantly executed by the cast and crew. More than that, I so appreciate the willingness of the writers and producers to bring real issues to the fore. Specifically, to this episode the idea that families get divorced in order to cover medical needs for their children. This is a real phenomenon. It is one that has been suggested to me to ensure my little one gets all that she needs.
So far, it hasn’t become a necessity, but it is always there a looming possibility. Perhaps shining a light on the pitfalls of our healthcare via a show like New Amsterdam will better serve to educate the population. Perhaps then, more than just entertaining us (and it does entertain us), the show can help people to become better advocates for themselves and their loved ones, create conversation and (I say this with child-like optimism) help to change the healthcare system in this country.
These stories are dramatic, but in each of them is the truth of a real journey of people all over this country. Thank you, New Amsterdam, for all of it. See you for our next appointment at the Dam.
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