The Privilege of Health and Healthcare: A Tribute to Rowan Jiménez

Photo via Heather Wolf.

While his wife was pregnant, a close family friend of mine, Rowan Jiménez, was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune condition called scleroderma. His diagnosis was systemic scleroderma, which meant he spent the first year of his illness in fear; he didn’t know how the disease would manifest itself in his body, and he worried for his wife and soon-to-be baby daughter.

A couple years later, he realized he needed a lung transplant and presented the idea to his doctor. Although the doctor was hesitant about the transplant, they went through with it, and later realized that if they hadn’t, Rowan wouldn’t have survived.

Fast forward over ten years to 2019, and doctors diagnosed Rowan with esophageal cancer. During the ten years prior, he never wasted one moment. Although he was always on immunosuppressants and lived with fear in the back of his mind, he didn’t let it keep him from living his life. That was just the type of person he was. And even after that new diagnosis, he still believed he would beat the terminal illness. He was a brave, special, and undefeatable person.

He passed away over a year ago, and I’m still in shock about how illness could defeat someone I viewed as invincible. I’ve had to grapple with the age-old question: Why do such bad things happen to such good people?

Simply put, this amazing father, husband, and person got unlucky. And there are countless others just like him who have to deal with unimaginably difficult experiences everyday. As I've been grappling with how to best understand and appreciate my privilege with health since his passing, I've also come to understand how the lack of luck or lack of privilege extends to healthcare accessibility.

At every job Rowan had, he had to make sure that his employer would provide the top of the line health insurance. The United States is the only wealthy country in the world that doesn’t provide its citizens with universal healthcare. And these medical bills are hurting citizens now more than ever. We are living in a global pandemic, and approximately 30 million people in our country lack health insurance. COVID-19 has caused around 5.4 million American employees to lose their health insurance alongside their jobs.

These issues regarding healthcare continue to serve as a reminder of privilege; both the privilege of health and the privilege of healthcare. Every year, I go to the doctor for my annual check up and get any shots and tests I may need. I’m lucky that it's a given for me to take this yearly visit. For many people in the United States, this is not the case. It’s not a given for those without insurance or without the funds to pay with the insurance coverage they have.

It’s unbelievable to me that those without this care have to make a decision between their health or their wallets.

And now, people are forced to make that decision more than ever; many patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19 are dealing with massive debt. Susan Adair’s husband passed away from COVID-19 in April 2020 after spending sixteen days in the hospital. And then she started getting the medical bills. While he had private insurance, the insurance didn't cover the bills in full, and Adair is left both grieving her husband and facing a pile of debt. This shouldn't happen to people; it’s both my job and yours to work to change these unequal systems.

I learned from Rowan that strong medical care can make a massive difference in someone’s life. And no one should be in the position that Susan Adair and so many others find themselves right now. In honor of Rowan, let's work to make access to healthcare possible in the United States for all. No one should lose their life due to lack of healthcare. Everyone should have access to the medical resources they need; everyone deserves a chance. 

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

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What a beautiful article Dahlia. I am so proud of you. Thank you for sharing this story and bringing awareness to such an important issue in our country!

A very compassionate & wise essay, though not surprising, since I have known this lovely lady since she was a young girl & she was always sensitive & smart.

How to cite this page

Plotkin-Oren, Dahlia. "The Privilege of Health and Healthcare: A Tribute to Rowan Jiménez." 19 May 2021. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 17, 2021) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/privilege-health-and-healthcare-tribute-rowan-jimenez>.

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