A night in the parking lot… On Health Care reform in Tennessee.

It never got above 20°.

With about 500-600 desperate people from all over East Tennessee I came to spend the night in the parking lot of the Chilhowee Park Zoo to get a chance to go to the 900th version of the Remote Area Medical mission. People came for dental, vision, medical help. The stories leave you between crying and screaming. I came for vision help and left with bad news. This was only one night of a 4 night mission. Probably 2-3 thousand people were helped overall.

They said the parking lot would open at midnight. I got there at 11:15. The parking lot was already filled.

At 3 they walked around and gave out numbers. I got 312. At 6 they started people lining up taking 20 people at a time. I have never prayed harder for them to holler 300-320.

The people from RAM were great. All morning people were apologizing for me having to wait in the cold. I saw people all the way from infants to 80 years old. More than one wheelchair. Everyone who came tried to make it easy on each other. In that long cold night it was people at their best.

The Tennessee Legislature has decided not to talk about health care in Tennessee. They celebrated their “State of the State” a few days ago. The elections are coming and I don’t think anyone wants to have anyone ask them hard questions.

I don’t think any of them was there last night.

I don’t anyone in that parking lot has contributed to anyone’s political campaign. I don’t think anybody has the ear of any politician. I imagine most legislators would wonder why anyone would do something so difficult.

I don’t know where they were. I know they don’t know where I am.

Last time I went someone said something about how appropriate it was that it was at the zoo. I hope the other animals were warmer.

A lot of people did good things tonight. Some people left during the night though. It was too cold. I heard about one guy with Copd who left early. He didn’t think he would survive to see the doctor he wanted to see so bad.

Last night was not part of the debate that so many people with power don’t want to have happen.

It felt like a verdict though.


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