Eric De La Cruz: The Heart of Healthcare Reform

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In Memoriam:  Eric De La Cruz,  July 4th, 2009, Rest In Peace

Eric De La Cruz raised the bar on American courage.  His family continues to shine a light on love.  Due to strength of will, he and his family would overcome obstacles few could navigate, lead an international community of thousands, and ignite others admiration and heroic passions.

The need was singular:  a heart transplant to save Eric’s life.

Please get the word out about my brothers plight.  He needs a heart transplant.  Healthcare red tape.  Please help save #Eric

Their story is profoundly American.  Only in the United States of 2009 could we develop the rapid technology needed for the De La Cruz’s triumphant and inspirational campaign, but also the healthcare system leading to their heartbreak.

Eric’s sister Veronica De La Cruz built a humanitarian Twitter community for Eric’s heart with some of the strongest bonds I have seen in a live or online campaign.  Supporters experienced in real time each blockade the De La Cruz family faced.  Despite the crisis, her continual dignity and love for her brother reminded many how to love. Eric pushed on.

It began when Eric was 22 years old, in school part time and working entry level.  These positions rarely offered health insurance or pay that can cover premiums.   At the time, he was one of the 30% of our millenial generation without insurance.  He was healthy, played hockey. He then grew fatigued and was diagnosed with severe dilated cardiomyopathy.

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Eric’s condition worsened in the years after his diagnosis, leading to the eventual recommendation of a heart transplant. Every day Eric survived was a victory to him and the family since then.

Nevada does not have a heart transplant center. Prior to healthcare reform, this unleashed a black hole.  With a pre-existing condition, Eric’s only insurance option had been Medicaid.  Medicaid is not federally controlled or portable across state lines due to state’s self-determination.  The transplant was not covered.

Pleas for Eric’s life were Tweeted from celebrities such as Demi Moore and P. Ditty.  As the healthcare red tape reached nightmare proportions, the community grew stronger and faster. Beautiful friendships were forged.  Hundreds of photos and cards were sent to Eric.  Together supporters created videos, Facebook groups, and Flickr streams. Touched by Eric, supporters created the “No More Red Tape” campaign and petition.

Eric had applied and was rejected twice for Social Security Disability status for coverage under federal Medicare, which represented his best hope of coverage that would permit his transfer to an out-of-state transplant center. And, worse yet, his next appeal was set a year in the future, time he certainly did not have.

My friends, … Senator Reid needs to know that there should be a change in our flawed health care system. We are praying that in this instance Nevada and California will work together so that Eric can get on the transplant list.

New champions were inspired whose interventions where heroic if not legendary.  Trent Reznor of the band Nine Inch Nails is now one of our great humanitarians for his emergency fundraising work for Eric.  He came to the rescue when Eric finally received Medicare, yet Medicare was deemed insufficient by their transplant center of choice.  Hospitals can inflate any price and turn away any private or public plan they feel will not pay the entirety.

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Eric’s situation shines a bright light on a broken healthcare system, and his particular set of problems are being addressed on the political front, aiming for reform in addition to the need for immediate financial help to keep him alive TODAY. I think we can help with the latter. ~ Trent Reznor

The De La Cruz family was left to raise the remaining cost of the heart transplant.  Trent launched a feat of brilliant fund raising ingenuity that raised close to $500,000 in two days and over to $900,000 in a few weeks.  His fans were moved by Eric’s story in monumental form. Janes Addiction and Tony Hawk came on board.  Eric was transported and admitted to a hospital in Los Angeles.  NIN’s gracious fanbase went above and beyond and joined Eric’s campaign with passion. The top donors received VIP NIN pre-concert access to the show of their choice.  The tour sold out of VIP packages. These are at one:

Hanging in there, Eric wrote a thank you note to Trent.  It encapsulates what we all believe about Trent and Eric, “Words can not describe..”

Despite devastating complications leading to VAD surgery to keep him alive, Eric remained mentally strong and Veronica remained positive:

He even says he wants to try to play Scategories! HUGE improvement. He hasn’t had energy so I am happy to hear.

Their love was a light:

With one miracle after another. Thanks to everyone who has stood by our side and supported us. Its been a lovefest on the web. We are grateful.

July 5th, 2009: A day of shock that will not be forgotten by thousands.  Veronica posted her goodbye to Eric after he died on our nation’s birthday. He did not survive recovery from the VAD surgery, which was his only hope to stay alive.  The De La Cruz family’s pain was felt and candles were lit for them around the world.

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What is most uniquely American about Eric’s story is that in other developed countries, more than Eric’s courageous memory would be alive.  Prior to healthcare reform, the true heroes in the battle for healthcare were the 18,000 uninsured who died per year. They fought hardest, just to live.  The De La Cruz family continues to fight so other families do not suffer as they did.

According to a Harvard think tank other countries spend half of what we do on healthcare and have higher survival rates. Any single part of the Affordable Care Act would have saved Eric’s life:  Premium costs attainable to entry level workers, an accessible federal plan, or the elimination of pre-existing exclusions.

There are two ways to grasp this.  Statistics:

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Or by opening your heart:

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Before the ACA, one third of our younger generation was uninsured, a circumstance similar to Eric’s could strike down many young hopefuls in college.

During Eric’s life, Veronica lovingly called Eric’s supporters “Eric’s Twitter Army.”   After witnessing first hand what the US healthcare system did to the De La Cruz family,  Eric’s Twitter Army is there to fight for healthcare in his name.  They are there so a healthcare failure of this magnitude will not happen to another family.  They believe in his memory and life.

Join us.  Follow @VeronicaDLCruz on Twitter.

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3 thoughts on “Eric De La Cruz: The Heart of Healthcare Reform

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