There has been a lot of talk from people in the State House about the costs and benefits of accepting federal funds to provide health insurance for up to 70,000 Mainers. They’ve talked about the merits of the deal, the money Maine will save, the jobs that will be created and the importance of providing health care to nearly 70,000 people.
We haven’t heard as much from any of those 70,000 people who would benefit from health care expansion.
I am one of them, and I want to tell you my story.
I was very sick when I was young, and I spent a lot of time at a hospital in Boston as doctors tried to figure out what was making me so sick. When I was 4, I was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic disease that causes my body to produce excess mucus, which clogs my lungs and makes it hard for me to breathe.
Because my parents had health insurance, they were able to get me the treatment and medicine I needed, and I was able to go home.
That’s also when I started playing hockey.
At first, my doctors didn’t want me to play. But my dad thought it would be good for me, and he stood up for me. He was right. Hockey allowed me to be a normal kid away from the hospital and the doctor’s visit. On the ice, I am just Sean Bourgeois, not Sean Bourgeois with Cystic Fibrosis.
It turns out, I was a pretty good hockey player. When I graduated from Winslow High School, I went into Junior A hockey, which was the quickest way for me to accomplish my dream of playing professional hockey.
I had some great experiences playing. For more than a year, I played for the Maine Moose here in Augusta, and I got to play a game with the Boston Bruins. It was an incredible experience to share the ice with some of my idols, like Ray Bourque and Cam Neely.
I couldn’t always play, so when I did, I made the most of it. In 2009, I played for the New Jersey Kings. A full Junior A hockey season is more than 60 games, but because I would get sick, I played only 14 games that year. In those 14 games, I scored 46 goals and performed a hat trick (three goals) in 36 seconds.
Junior A hockey doesn’t pay the bills, so while I was playing, I was also working full-time, and eventually it was too much. It took a toll on my health, and my illness made it harder for me. I came home and was hospitalized. I realized that I couldn’t afford to work full-time and play hockey. It was too much for my body.
Right now, I am hospitalized for about two weeks every two to three months to have my lungs cleared. I can’t work full time and keep the health insurance I receive through my disability insurance.
In short, accepting this deal would give me a normal life. I would have health insurance, and I would be able to get a job.
I am thankful for the lawmakers who have stood up for people like me. To those who are still undecided, I want you to know that there are a lot of people like me out there. Some of us are unable to work because of our illnesses. Others are able to work, but still cannot afford health insurance.
None of us asked to be sick. It wasn’t our choice.
But you do have a choice.
You have the choice to accept this deal and give us the opportunity to live as normal a life as we can.
Say yes. Take this deal.
Sean Bourgeois, 23, lives in Winslow.