It was only about a month ago when a Norman police officer came to Lori’s door and told her that her friend was dead.
Lori’s friend, Allen, a 53-year-old therapist, had lived next to her for about six months, and the two had become close.
They enjoyed talking about movies and books. It was nice to find someone she connected with.
In late April, Lori realized she hadn’t heard from Allen in a few days and worried something was wrong. She banged on his door, trying to get his attention and tried to reach him several times. She even put a rock behind his car’s tire to make sure she wasn’t just missing him when he was home. But the rock never moved.
What still haunts Lori is the reason why Allen died, she said.
Allen died alone in his apartment, potentially from a heart attack or other heart troubles. He was uninsured and afraid to call 911, fearful of how much it would cost to go to the hospital.
A few days before his death, Allen had complained of having trouble breathing and a pain in his left arm.
“Why didn’t you call 911?” Lori asked him.
“I don’t have insurance,” he told her.
She told him that didn’t matter, that he could go get help.
“If I die, I die,” he told her.
The last phone call Allen made was to Lori, probably to tell her he didn’t feel well, she said.
“I feel so responsible because I would have called 911,” she said. “People die every day because they think (hospitals) are going to ask for ID or something. They don’t – people are wonderful at hospitals.”
Lori knows from personal experience, having called 911 about a year ago when her asthma was acting up. She hadn’t been taking medication, unable to afford the $325 to pay for Advair.
“They picked me up and then revived me, and I was in the ER, and then I went to the ICU, and then they didn't even come in and talk to me and ask me about insurance for three days,” she said. “People in hospital want to help -- they really do.”
Oklahoma County is believed to have more community-based and faith-based health care safety net providers per square mile than any other major metropolitan county or region in the U.S.
Also, Remote Area Medical Oklahoma provides a free-care weekend each year. This year, the event will be August 16 and August 17 at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. You can also volunteer at the RAM event by visiting this link.