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Next to the young men, Julie Pierce hugs the back wall, too. Featured in Michael Moore's movie Sicko, the Mission resident lost her husband to kidney cancer when private insurance denied him a bone-marrow transplant. She glances at Loredo. "I can't imagine what she's going through," Pierce says. "I mean, it's a child."
When the DJ takes a break, Pierce joins Suarez onstage. She reads a statement from Healthcare-Now, a Washington, D.C., organization that advocates for a single-payer, government-sponsored insurance system. In December, HCN took Eduardo's campaign nationwide. Along with another national group — the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign — it organized a petition that gathered nearly 2,000 signatures in a matter of weeks. "No social determinant, including citizenship or wealth, should affect this decision, but they do not flinch to ask a 14-year-old for half a million dollars to get on a wait list," Pierce reads from the HCN statement.
Katie Robbins, an organizer for HCN, says her group wants to see a system that provides Medicare-like coverage to all residents, not just citizens. According to Healthcare-Now, a single-payer system that includes undocumented residents would save $400 billion per year, compared with the estimated $2.5 trillion in total U.S. health-care spending — public and private — in 2009.
"Eduardo's situation is symbolic of the many people who are left out of our health-care system, even as health-care reform is supposedly happening," Robbins says.
"But it's been a very fierce national climate on this issue, and it's been very discouraging that even the president has supported it [the exclusion of undocumented persons] to a certain extent, reminding us again and again that we will not provide health care to the undocumented," she adds.
On the stage at JCCC, Monique Gabrielle Maes-Salazar, a member of the Latino Writers Collective, tries to fire up the crowd.
"This is a blatant crime against humanity," she shouts. "The only difference between what's going on here and murder is that we are watching him die, slowly, every day."
Eduardo doesn't register the impassioned rant. His attention is trained on a teenage girl in a purple sweater. They're smiling coyly, comparing charms on their necklaces. She's got a round medallion that looks faintly Aztec. He's got a small gold Playboy bunny.
Several teenagers huddle around a woman sketching caricatures on a small easel. As Eduardo sits for a sketch, with two girls drawn on either side, his friends circle around. He licks his thumb and playfully smoothes his eyebrows, clowning for his audience. The girls giggle. When the artist is finished, Eduardo cranes his neck to examine his grinning portrait — his entire entourage breaks into laughter.
The two girls sandwich Eduardo, moving in close to inspect their faces on either side of the drawing. One of them asks if she can take a picture. There's no question who will keep the memento.
The sound of Eduardo's sniffles break the silence in the empty house as Joan Postlewait, a teacher at Wyandotte High School, spreads the freshman's schoolbooks across the dining table. This Friday tutoring session has just begun, but the 14-year-old isn't paying attention. He keeps his head down, anxiously whittling the sides of a pencil, peeling off the layers of yellow paint with a dull knife. As his hand jerks forward, the plastic IV in his left arm taps softly against the wooden table.