This should be a story about a candidate for the Darwin Awards:
With a belly full of food and sake, Armand Nelson Schneider just wanted to get rid of his nausea and empty his stomach before hopping on a train back to his study-abroad home in Yokohama, Japan.
Schneider, 22, was throwing up over the platform when a high-speed commuter zoomed into the station and smashed into him.
Fortunately for Armand, someone pulled him back just enough to save his life. Unfortunately, the train hit him so hard that it's left him a little delusional:
"It's a miracle," his mother said. "This kid should be dead."
Schneider said he doesn't struggle with alcohol and has always been a safe drinker -- his mother calls him "Mr. Responsibility."
"There's no denying I was very drunk," he said. "But I don't think the accident was caused by that."
Riiiight. Alcohol had nothing to do with sticking his head over the tracks and puking. But the point is not to ridicule Armand. Rather, this passage caught my eye:
His recovery, however, wasn't as fast as he had hoped. Schneider stayed in the Japanese intensive care unit for 12 days, kept his spot in the ward for four weeks and was moved to a nearby rehab facility for another four weeks. Nelson stayed by his side -- along with the Japanese nurses and doctors who "fell in love with him" -- for a month.
Endless droves of friends and his Japanese family members visited him often. His Oregon study-aboard peers folded him 1,000 origami cranes, following an ancient Japanese fable symbolizing a speedy and safe recovery.
Nelson returned to the United States after "I saw him get out of that hospital and go upright." When she returned to Japan weeks later, the doctor gave Schneider the surprise go-ahead to return home with his mother.
Nelson said she was prepared to make a hefty payment -- above $300,000 -- for the months of care. Instead, she said, they informed her of the national health care system and asked her for about $3,000.
"Twelve days in the ICU would have cost a quarter million in the United States," she said.
There were some trade-offs for the less-expensive treatment, Schneider said. For instance, he had to pay for meals and to use the TV and refrigerator. He also had to share a bedroom with six people, and pay for his pajamas and diapers.
"But you're happy not to have the frills to walk out with no bills," Schneider said.
And, he said, his treatment was unparalleled.
"I thank God he was in Japan when this happened," Nelson said.
The United States is currently grappling with health care reform that would introduce some kind of universal coverage, with Canada's system frequently held as an example. The typical arguments against universal coverage range from 1) it's run by the government and therefore bad, 2) long wait times for elective surgery, and 3) it costs too much. These "arguments" are all silly. First, the Canadian government doesn't run health care, it pays for it. Doctors bill the government and doctors what treatment to give. At no time does the government step in and decide who gets treatment and who does not. Wait times are an issue in the Canadian system, but waiting for an elective procedure is far better than not getting any treatment at all. Costs, too, are always an issue, but even though there are more Americans without health care than there are Canadians covered, Canada still manages to spend less per capita than the United States.
Had this accident occurred in the US, the mother would probably be paying off the bill for the rest of her life. As a Canadian, I can't figure out why the US hasn't gotten around to adopting universal health care. This accident seems like a good reason for it--you shouldn't have to face financial ruin to get medical treatment.