North Lawndale, a neighborhood that lies in the shadows of Chicago’s Loop, is surrounded by some of the city’s finest medical facilities, Yet, it is one of the sickest, most medically underserved communities in the country.
Mama Might Be Better Off Dead immerses readers in the lives of four generations of a poor, African-American family in the neighborhood, who are beset with the devastating illnesses that are all too common in America’s inner-cities. Headed by Jackie Banes, who oversees the care of a diabetic grandmother, a husband on kidney dialysis, an ailing father, and three children, the Banes family contends with countless medical crises. From visits to emergency rooms and dialysis units, to trials with home care, to struggles for Medicaid eligibility, Laurie Kaye Abraham chronicles their access—or more often, lack thereof—to medical care. Told sympathetically but without sentimentality, their story reveals an inadequate health care system that is further undermined by the direct and indirect effects of poverty.
Both disturbing and illuminating, Mama Might Be Better Off Dead is an unsettling, profound look at the human face of health care in America. Published to great acclaim in 1993, the book in this new edition includes an incisive foreword by David Ansell, a physician who worked at Mt. Sinai Hospital, where much of the Banes family’s narrative unfolds.
The vicious circle of poverty and illness is powerfully portrayed in Abraham's ( Reinventing Home ) account of an uninsured, black, four-generational family in one of Chicago's ``poorest and sickest'' neighborhoods. Included in their medical misfortunes: the amputation of both legs of a diabetic grandmother; a drug-addicted husband on kidney dialysis who undergoes a kidney transplant; a partially stroke-paralyzed son; and children who lack primary care and immunization. This personally observed, lucid chronicle and call for reform of our ailing health system covers all levels of responsibility in the medical establishment, and deserves scrutiny by our administration's health service planners. Abraham concludes that a reformed health care system should set limits on health spending while stressing ``caring'' over ``curing.''