Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Donna Smith

Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation

June 21st, 2010 11:57 AM

Anniversary of an American SiCKO

Michael Moore’s documentary, SiCKO, opened in theaters across the United States three years ago this week. I had seen it once in May of 2007 along with several others who were also subjects featured in the film, so for six weeks before the wider premier, my anticipation of events to come grew with every passing day. The road to my financial collapse at the hands of the medical-industrial complex took years to unfold, but somehow I believed the turn-around might happen more quickly with the push of a major documentary telling the stories of so many damaged lives.

I so hoped that throngs of people would rise up with righteous indignation following the film’s release, and so long as Michael stayed in the public eye, that was true. But what about a few weeks or months down the road? Who would still be standing with any sense or urgency for the transformation of the brutal and inhumane healthcare system in the U.S.? And what about three years down the road?

The answers are mixed and muddy, as they often are in life. The healthcare system has not been transformed. In fact, the recently passed legislation may leave more families like mine open to trauma in the years that come. Forced to buy private insurance – and sometimes with premiums only affordable on high-deductible, high co-pay and high out-of-pocket expense plans – many working Americans will find themselves fodder for future documentary films recounting the horrors of bankruptcy, foreclosure and beyond while carrying for-profit, private health insurance. That is the most terrible reality I see on the third anniversary of SiCKO’s release.

My fellow SiCKO subjects have struggled mightily in the past three years. Those whose stories included the death of a loved one due to insurance benefit denials have had their stories upstaged since 2007 by thousands of other deaths – patients left to suffer and die while insurance companies and corporate health providers grew wealthier. It isn’t so much that any of these folks expected SiCKO stardom or fame to take away the pain of losing their loved ones. Being in SiCKO and having one’s story forever recorded in that way validates the reality and the horror of it all, but sometimes knowing that little has changed to stop the carnage makes that seem like a broken promise of an especially deep, personal kind.

All of us who appeared in that film opened ourselves bare to the world – cried our tears, told our stories, shared our most intimate thoughts – all to strangers and all without being paid. I often tell audiences that folks don’t get paid to be in that sort of film, and folks are surprised. In fact, being the subject of a Michael Moore documentary carries its own special risks, as all of us would find out in our own ways. People can be very cruel and thoughtless about such things. Do folks truly think Michael Moore’s staff doesn’t vet the stories he profiles? While the opinions he shares about his subject matter are truly his own and have his unique flavor and passion, the stories are those of real people with real trauma.

I’ve said it before many times that the healthcare bill just passed will not prevent even one of the stories told in the 2007 SiCKO from being retold in the future. To a person, every story will still be possible, so in theory we could be making SiCKO II and SiCKO III and SiCKO IV for years to come. People often approach me and tell me to tell Michael that he needs to do a sequel. I probably would argue against that.

At the end of the film, Michael rolls credits including the call to action to support a national single-payer plan like that offered in Rep. John Conyers’ HR676. But in this past legislative cycle, even Mr. Conyers bailed out on HR676. In the end, no one held the line at all for what President Obama said was the only way to grant true universality. In the end, we didn’t believe every human being is universally deserving of care when they are sick. We just weren’t ready to bridge that divide.

Did SiCKO advance the discussion? I would say absolutely, “yes.” It advanced the discussion because the good people who made it, the good people who were in it and the good people who watched it cared enough to keep speaking up, writing blogs, emails and letters, marching and protesting and giving of themselves to change the dialogue and ultimately change the system. Michael Moore went on to his next film project – as a filmmaker ought to do – but he never stopped weighing in on the healthcare struggle when he was asked. But many wanted more from him even though he gave mightily of his talent and his drive and continues to do so today.

The transformational moments many of us who were in the film had dreamed of and hoped for have not yet happened. People did not see our stories, exclaim “Oh my God,” and then reach out to each of us with love and wrap us in some measure of peace so we’d not spend the rest of our lives in struggle. No, the early accolades and recognition faded and our moments of fame did not translate into futures without pain. Quite the contrary for some of us.

I often count myself as the blessed SiCKO. I was the one hired later on by the nurses after one of my blogs, titled “47,000,001,” told the world eight months after SiCKO’s release that I sat on the verge of becoming uninsured for the first time in my adult life. I grabbed onto that lifeline and never looked back. But that hasn’t always been easy either. Grabbing one lifeline almost always means letting go of others – the places and the people and the mountains and the wind through the trees in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Am I determined that the SiCKO experience matter? Of course. I always remember a scene from the film that others may not. 25,000 people sent their healthcare horror stories in to Michael Moore. 25,000 people told their truths in just a few days before the stream of messages was so great that the producers might never make it through reading them. And just a few of us – less than a dozen – were featured in the final project. So, every time I see SiCKO or mention it or stand on my experience as one of its subjects, I remember the 24,988 other people who never got the chance to be heard and seen on that screen. I owe them my best effort every single day to make my experience matter.

Else, SiCKO was just an exercise in a weird sort of post traumatic vanity – and I know that it was much more than that. It was a tome for those millions of us injured by the injustice of the for-profit engine of the sick-o health system in America. Happy anniversary, fellow SiCKOs.


You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law Donna Smith Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? Donna Smith We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa Nick Turse Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch Donna Smith The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Enron billionaire John Arnold thinks everyone should believe him when he says we've got to cut pensions because he's so incredibly rich: John...

Mar 5th
4:20 PM
Read More

More in David Sirota's continuing series on the billionaire takeover of PBS: More PBS conflict woes as activists move to eject David Koch from board of...

Mar 3rd
12:35 PM
Read More

Ukraine: One ‘Regime Change’ Too Many? Ray McGovern Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative...

Mar 2nd
9:25 PM
Read More

Latest from David Sirota on Enron billionaire John Arnold smuggling anti-pension propaganda into "neutral" institutions like PBS and now, the...

Mar 1st
12:58 PM
Read More

Second Guessing a Life: US Health Care System Robs Security and Human Dignity Donna Smith The dysfunction of the US health care system...

Feb 27th
1:40 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles