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Pam Frampton: Hoping for a reason to smile


Published on April 19, 2017

Linda Clarke, 67, stands alone on the steps of Confederation Building in St. John’s April 13 to raise awareness of her health issue, which is not covered under provincial health care plans or MCP.

©Glen Whiffen/The Telegram file photo

Linda Clarke said she hit her lowest ebb last Thursday, standing alone in the cold on the steps of Confederation Building, struggling to keep her two placards upright in the wind.

Pam Frampton

She wanted to bring attention to her dilemma: on her fixed income she can’t afford the $20,000 medical procedure she needs to address deteriorating bone in her jaw, and the dental implant surgery isn’t covered by MCP or the provincial health-care plan.

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul — and sings the tunes without the words — and never stops at all.

Emily Dickinson

Which is odd, because the Canada Health Act’s definition of insured health services would suggest otherwise.

According to the Act, “insured health services — which must be fully insured by provincial health care insurance plans — comprise: hospital services that are medically necessary for the purpose of maintaining health, preventing disease or diagnosing or treating an injury, illness or disability. … Any medically or dentally required surgical-dental procedures which can only be properly carried out in a hospital.”

Linda Clarke’s dental implants are medically necessary for her to be able to eat anything other than soft foods. The 67-year-old Chamberlains woman has already lost more than 20 lbs and some of her stamina, thanks to steady a diet of applesauce and yogurt.

The oral surgeon who recommended Clarke have the procedure performs the operation in “a hospital-style operating suite,” according to the website of the Atlantic Oral Surgery and Implant Centre where he practices.

I’m not sure what differentiates Clarke’s need for treatment from that of someone with, say, osteoporosis, which also involves bone deterioration.

But Clarke has been refused coverage at every turn, which is why she took her fight to Confederation Building. Last Wednesday I wrote about her planned protest on Thursday, how she was hoping to get to speak to Health Minister Dr. John Haggie.

Haggie told Telegram reporter Glen Whiffen that day that his department had, in fact, tried to “reach out to this lady,” to see if anything can be done to help her — which seems rather preposterous given that they could have just gone to Confederation Hill.

“Dr. Haggie’s personal secretary called me just as I was going out the door for the protest, and I told them where I was going,” Clarke said.

She said her spirits were so low that day she felt “on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”

“I had no hope whatsoever,” she said. “All I saw was security behind the glass doors. Someone could’ve come out and talked to me.”

But as she stood there with her signs, Clarke’s spirits were lifted when passing motorists honked their car horns in support. And over the Easter weekend, donations flowed in to her Go Fund Me account from people close to home and as far away as Belgium — surpassing the $3,000 mark as of Tuesday noon.

“It is said we have great health care, not when it fails someone like you,” one donor commented.

A neighbour is collecting on her behalf as well, and there may be a community fundraiser in the works.

“People are kind and good,” Clarke said. “It’s restored my faith in humanity.”

I called to check in with Clarke on Monday, and during our conversation she had to take another call. It was Dr. Ed Williams of the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Association, setting up a meeting with Clarke for early in May, to discuss her situation and explore possible avenues for assistance.

It’s not new teeth and it’s not coverage — not yet. But it’s progress, and it’s given Clarke new reason to hope and to smile.

“I feel like I’m the better person for what I did,” she said. “I did all I could do. I didn’t back down. And I’d do it all again. It seems like you’ve got to really kick up the dirt and not let the grass grow under your feet.”

And if she’s finally able to have the surgery she needs to get new teeth?

“I’ll be grinning from ear to ear,” she said.

 

Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email  pframpton@thetelegram.com. Twitter: pam_frampton