Something To Sink Your Teeth Into…
Gender Reassignment Surgery has been the hot topic of debate these last few weeks as Counsel and Alberta Health Care deliberate the issue of no longer funding coverage of this procedure in Alberta. Although economic and political agenda may ultimately prove to be the dominating factors in the final verdict on this matter, it has prompted human rights activists all over the country to roar news of oppressions and violations. Emotional, physical, and mental health are terms tossed around and held fast to as governing the necessary advocacy of this procedure deemed no longer relevant in the eyes of parliament. This issue no doubt has spawned controversial discussions on a variety of “sub-oppressions” such as equality and fairness, social acceptability, justice, and quality of life. Regarding this issue of gender reassignment surgery I have absolutely no opinion either way, I’m completely neutral. Truth is I haven’t spent any time thinking about it for the matter itself has revealed a further injury dealt by the decision makings of these ruling bodies. Those who with absolution decide for us what we deserve “covered” by Alberta Health Care but yet occasionally violate the fundamental principles of the Canada Health Act. Before I continue, I would however like to note that I advocate for fairness in all matters of human rights and so hold no prejudices regarding the subject of gender reassignment funding and acknowledge its tribulations with this. The matter itself has simply compelled me to expose our faulty health care system and its potentiality for life altering consequences while both insufficient and inappropriately allocated coverage is in place.
This is my story.
Health – the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit; especially, freedom from physical disease or pain (Merriam-Webster). A meaning echoed by the Canada Health Act when it states; (1) that Canadians can achieve further improvements in their well-being through combining individual lifestyles that emphasize fitness, prevention of disease and health promotion with collective action against the social, environmental and occupational causes of disease, and that they desire a system of health services that will promote physical and mental health and protection against disease. (2) that continued access to quality health care without financial or other barriers will be critical to maintaining and improving the health and well-being of
Canada Health Act (R.S.,1985, c.C-6)
Note: These are just two excerpts from the Act and are meant for the purpose of this article though the Act in its full citation can be found at; http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en.
Inspiring stuff isn’t it? When I read the Health Act I was stricken by both its clarity and by its Justly intent on preventing and preserving health. I thought it only fair that we all know prior to continuing.
Last year, at the young age of 32, I was told I had advanced periodontal disease. I had no idea of its severity and the impacts it was having on my overall health. For more than 17 years I haven’t had dental coverage, I simply cannot afford it. Oh I was young when there were first signs of trouble but my time spent in dentist chairs was random and never really enforced in our home. As the years progressed and life got vastly more complicated, so did the health of my teeth consequently. If not for the help of wonderful friends, I would not have even known about the disease for it was them who became my personal tooth fairies and took me to see a dentist. When told of my condition I became immediately worried about oral cancer. My father had just passed away from that very disease not one year earlier. Cancer seems to have gripped my life in this last two years for shortly after my father, my grandfather and my mom both died of various forms of it. You can imagine it has not been an easy time.
My first action was to speak with a medical professional. If it’s one thing we all know it’s that oral health is fundamental to maintaining overall health right?Isn’t that what they drill into us on television? In reality, any dental work required to save my teeth was, evidently, considered cosmetic. And therein began the steep road downwards. No coverage by health care and ongoing dental care required for years with absolutely no way to pay for it…these became the reasons for the next set of events to unfold that would lead to one of the most detrimental outcomes possible.
Deciding to research periodontal disease, it shocked me to learn of its many health risks, some of which are life threatening. To name a few; bone loss, increased risk of stroke and heart attacks, high blood sugar levels, premature birth and low birth weight, pancreatic cancer, and even bacterial pneumonia. A hereditary predisposition increases the risk of oral cancer as well due to inherited genes. Jesus, anything else I should worry about? After discovering all this I got really angry. I mean outraged kind of angry. After all, how could it be possible that our health care professionals advocate the essentiality behind oral health yet refuse to cover essential, potentially life-saving procedures? It is this very point of allocation that is the purpose of this article.
In accordance with Canada’s Health Act my particular health concerns fall directly under any one of the ideologies represented by it but, the doctors and dentists overrule those terms because after helping me with my teeth I might just look pretty afterwards by consequence? Folks let’s take this minute to learn that Cosmetic Surgery is commonly defined as; surgery (and related medical treatment) undergone to improve appearance rather than for health reasons (wiktionary.org).
Let’s stop there for a minute and continue with our story. Besides, need I say more?
It was after hundreds of dollars spent by my loving friends on different opinions from various dentists and x-rays that seem to cost stupendous amounts of money that the verdict was given; full teeth extraction. It, I was informed by one dentist, was the most reasonable decision based on history and risk of cancer, among numerous other health risks cited. The cost was also substantially less (though dentures aren’t covered by health care either, even if you are at risk of dying) and since I was floating on the good graces of my friends, was backed into a decision that has altered my life forever. Full teeth extraction commenced…and the road got steeper from there.
Did you know that periodontal disease weakens and eventually dissolves bone? If left too long in fact, a procedure like the removal of all your teeth could be a seriously bad decision if there isn’t enough bone and gum left to support dentures. Oh consequences, how loudly you sing for me…I’m sure you can guess I had, of course, severe bone loss to the point where my lower dentures didn’t fit, ever. Though I do have the top set which offer if nothing else aesthetic value, at least partially (pun intended). The bonus however, is that I’m finally free to focus on that starve-yourself-to-death diet I’d been meaning to try for I gave up one of my major vices, chewing. Though to be fair my dentist did vehemently explain that her eighty-something grandfather can gum steak like nobody’s business!
I casually reminded her I was only 32. Then I went home and cried, again.
Thinking about it now, being single, I’m sure any date would take pleasure in watching the half masticated cow vigorously rolling around my gums while we’re out for dinner. Who wouldn’t?
Alright, though not exactly the most seamless diatribe, there is a tie here and the one to which I’ve been eluding. Treading gently and with no prejudice, it was the subject of the funding for gender reassignment surgeries that made me write this brief story. Look, frankly, I don’t know who or what deserves funding or coverage. I’m not writing this to magically change any laws either. I just needed someone to tell me…
What the hell is going on here?
The very health care professionals devoted to saving my life will not help me save mine but…if I had had some sort of social disassociation issue…I know I could make a call and have it covered. What do I seem bitter? And folks, it’s not because there is, thus far, allocation for the gender surgery. I just think we ALL deserve the kind of coverage that may just expand into oral issues (I mean really, it would appear there’s been some leeway in other areas). Either that or STOP freaking telling us that our oral health is critical to our overall health, it’s outright hypocritical.
I pose these next questions to anyone who’ll listen. I offer these questions to my health care providers and those that would make change. Isn’t time for funding to be allocated towards preventing and preserving health? When will dentist and doctor unite to help their patients, for the welfare OF their patients?
And lastly, what the hell am I supposed to do now?
I write for anyone that has ever faced this immense challenge and has no place to turn. I write so that someone remembers and advocates for, the Canada Health Act.