THE BLOG
10/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

What My Late Husband's Organ Transplant Taught Me About the Health Industry

CNN is investigating organ trafficking in this country and abroad. Here is a video interview with an Israeli organ broker.

Drew Griffin, the interviewer, says: "And listen how cold he thinks about the donor." And then at some point Drew says to "Michael" (fake name given to the organ broker): "You can jump ahead of the line because you have money." Michael says "yes" and then Drew continues: "It says that the rich person has more of a right to their health and their life than the poor person." To which Michael answers: "This is reality. This is how it happens. It's the truth".

While this is an extreme example where the rich have more chances to survive than the poor, I wonder why Drew is so shocked by it. People with money have access to better health care and opportunities. How many people die because they either don't have health insurance or they are part of an HMO that does not cover the operations, procedures or drugs they need?

My husband, Chris Rubin, a journalist, had a liver transplant on June 26th 2006. It was only a couple of months earlier that we found out he had a very rare type of cancer that had already destroyed his liver. His only chance to survive was a liver transplant. In May of 2006 our own doctor at Cedars Sinai advised us to go to a different center, one that was more aggressive in their transplant procedures and had a shorter waiting list. This is when I came to understand the insurance and drug business. From that point on until my husband passed away I never stopped fighting them.

Blue Cross, my husband's insurance, did not cover transplants at Mayo Jacksonville, the center at the time with the shortest and quickest waiting list in the country and the one we chose to go to. They also did not cover an air ambulance from Los Angeles to Jacksonville. By May, Chris, could no longer sit and was too frail to fly commercial.

If we did not have the funds to pay for the air ambulance to Jacksonville, my husband would have died in May of 2006. But because we did, we flew to Jacksonville, put down a deposit and were willing and able to sell our home to cover all possible expenses the transplant would incur. (We are talking over a million dollars.)

As it turns out, the fighting, the threatening and a timely article on the front page of the Los Angeles Times titled "Death by Geography", which basically described how patients in big cities ended up dying while waiting for an organ while others like ourselves that picked up and moved survived by getting the powers-that-be to say yes to the transplant. I still remember the nurse in charge of Chris' case at Blue Cross calling me sobbing and laughing at the same time, letting me know they had approved his transplant.

So while "buying" an organ is a horrible thing because once again people with money come out ahead, the reality is that it is only a situation of "one more time" like in "one more time" money speaks louder.

We must have health reform in this country, otherwise even the people who have PPOs may find themselves needing coverage that their policies don't offer. No one should suffer or die because of money.

My husband lived happily and healthily until July 2008 when his cancer returned and metastasized. In the two years and two months that he lived with a transplanted liver we got married, re-did the house, traveled, got a dog, wrote many articles and I produced a film. His transplant gave us 26 months of great quality of life. Chris died in my arms at 2 a.m. of August 15th.