By Allen Hallmark
When some of us last saw Wes Brain at the CPJ business meeting on Dec. 18th, he was preparing himself for a tonsillectomy the next day. As you know, it is quite unusual for a middle-aged person to need to have his tonsils taken out, and Wes knew going in that the lab work might produce a diagnosis of throat cancer.
I spoke to Wes on the phone today (Friday, Jan. 4th) and he sounds great – his voice is strong and his advocacy for health care reform is even stronger than ever, if such a thing is possible.
The good news is that he has completely recovered from the effects of the surgery and was even joking about how it improved his voice and he may launch a new career as a singer, like his buddy Julius Margolin, the New York union organizer who took up folk-singing at the age of 79 and toured with George Mann for years until he passed away a few years ago at age 93.
The bad news, of course, is that Wes does, in fact, have cancer. More tests, including a very expensive PET scan have to be run to determine how serious this is, but in any case the treatment will be long and tedious and will cost thousands and thousands of dollars that Wes & Brenda do not possess. Both have been unemployed or underemployed for a long time.
Not being the type to wallow in bad news, Wes is full of plans for how to combat the Big C while at the same time doing all he can do to establish a single-payer, government-administered health care plan (Health Care for All Oregon) in our state and our nation (Health Care for All America) so that everyone can access quality health care without having to declare bankruptcy.
Wes is urging all of us to support Health Care for All Oregon and to make reservations to get on the bus to Salem on February 4th for the big HCAO rally at the state Capitol building. He also wants us to sign up to hold coffee meetings in our homes to educate our friends about HCAO and the virtues of the single-payer system.
Wes & Brenda may be forced to declare bankruptcy in the near future, but they are determined to stay in their home. Being frugal people, they have managed to keep themselves debt-free up until now, but when faced with bills like $15,000 for the tonsillectomy and up to $5,000 for the PET scan (only the beginning of the costs), they may be forced into bankruptcy.
And we, his friends and peace & justice colleagues, will need to step up and establish an ongoing fundraising operation to help Wes & Brenda cope with the financial burdens they will soon be facing.
I will be leaving the state for a wintertime vacation for a month soon, and I hope that while I’m gone that fundraising to benefit Wes & Brenda will be well-underway and that the HCAO rally in Salem will be a huge success and the momentum will become undeniable even to stick-in-the-mud politicians.
Meanwhile, I know that Wes will be doing everything he can to restore his health and to provide the kind of health care system that will make our whole state healthier and a better place to live.