+

Becca Atherton first saw the operating room when she was a baby. Over the next 24 years, it became a familiar sight.

Atherton, who suffers from Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart disease, and pulmonary atresia, a respiratory disorder, estimates that she takes 50 pills a day and has endured four open-heart surgeries in her young life. Together, she and her mom watched Jimmy Kimmel's monologue detailing his newborn son's health emergency.

"We looked at each other when he started talking about pre-existing conditions and we were both like, 'Finally!'" Atherton says.

After Kimmel's monologue went viral, hundreds and Americans whose lives have been touched by chronic childhood illnesses took to social media to thank the talk show host for giving voice to their stories — and speaking up for their rights.

The speech captured an experience familiar to millions of families from all walks of life — from the terror of finding out your child has a life-threatening illness, to the gratitude for the work of local hospitals and medical professionals who treat those illnesses, to the importance of funding the National Institutes of Health.

It was Kimmel's emotional plea to save affordable insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, however, that struck the strongest chord with his audience.

"If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make," Kimmel pleaded at the end of the emotional monologue.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that more than 1 in 4 Americans under 65 have conditions that would render them uninsurable under a pre-Affordable Care Act insurance model.

Kimmel's speech came as congressional Republicans are considering changes to their health care bill that could allow insurers to charge patients with pre-existing conditions higher rates. A recent amendment to the bill would allow states to wave provisions of the ACA that forbid insurance companies from factoring health history into plan pricing.

Atherton, who received the same diagnosis as Kimmel's son when she was a baby, believes Congress could do more to demonstrate they believe their plan is right for their constituents.

Becca Atherton. Photo via Becca Atherton, used with permission.

"If your new health care plan is so amazing, then prove it by giving up your government funded health care plan and join the rest of us on your new plan," Atherton says.

A Virginia performer, who goes by Jolene Sugarbaker, says they don't understand "people saying they don't want their tax money going towards people getting care, but don't mind it going towards a wall."

Sugarbaker, who had Tetralogy of Fallot surgery at 8 years old, worries that under the new plan, poorer Americans with chronic childhood illnesses won't be able to give their children the kind of care Sugarbaker received or will go bankrupt trying to pay for it.

Andrew O'Brien, a Maryland father whose 2-year-old daughter Keely nearly died from a congenital heart defect when she was an infant, said Kimmel's monologue "brought back feelings and memories," from the most difficult weeks of his family's life.

O'Brien, a Republican, believes the ACA needs "real changes," but doesn't want to see protections for patients who require intensive, ongoing care through no fault of their own scrapped.

"To go backward now and deny people the ability to obtain insurance based on a pre-existing condition would be really harmful," he says.

Andrew O'Brien (R) with son Liam, daughter Keely, and wife Jenny. Photo via Andrew O'Brien, used with permission.

He would like to see Congress craft a new bill that fixes the things that don't work with the current law, while keeping its most popular and effective provisions — like the backstops for customers with pre-existing conditions — in a way that isn't "overly partisan."

While the health care debate continues to rage in D.C., for people with such conditions and those who love them, Kimmel's contribution might wind up being invaluable.

Atherton, who will eventually need another heart surgery, hopes Kimmel's monologue will raise awareness of people like her — and what they stand to lose if their health coverage goes away.

"These are people's lives you're dealing with," Atherton says. "We have worth."

All photos courtesy of Albertsons
True

Summer is officially over, which means we’re looking for any excuse to get together and watch a game or grill outside in the cooling temperatures.

The thing about hosting though is figuring out what to feed your guests—especially with rising prices all around. And frankly, everyone is sick of pizza.

Keep ReadingShow less

Celine Dion spoke directly to her fans on social media.

Celine Dion has shared the devastating news that she has been diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called stiff person syndrome.

In an emotional video to her fans, the 54-year-old French-Canadian singer apologized for taking so long to reach out and explained that her health struggles have been difficult to talk about.

"As you know, I have always been an open book, and I wasn't ready to say anything before. But I'm ready now."

Keep ReadingShow less

A tiger at the Endangered Animal Rescue Sanctuary and a mugshot of Joe Exotic from Santa Rosa County Jail.

Netflix’s “Tiger King” will go down in history as the collective distraction that helped America get through the dark, depressing days of early COVID-19 lockdowns. The show followed the true story of the feud between private zoo owner Joe Exotic, the self-described “gay, gun-carrying, redneck with a mullet,” and Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue.

Exotic is currently serving out a 21-year prison sentence for animal rights abuses and hiring someone to kill Baskin.

The show was a raucous look inside the world of big cat owners and brought a lot of attention to the animal abuse that runs rampant in the industry. The light it shed on the industry was so bright it led Congress to take action. The Senate unanimously passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act on December 6. The House had already passed the bill in July.

The White House has signaled that President Biden will sign the bill into law.

Keep ReadingShow less
Gen Ishihara/Facebook

"AI art isn't cute."

Odds are you’ve probably seen those Lensa AI avatars floating around social media. You know, the app that turns even the most basic of selfies into fantasy art masterpieces? I wouldn’t be surprised if you have your own series of images filling up your photo bank right now. Who wouldn’t want to see themselves looking like a badass video game character or magical fairy alien?

While getting these images might seem like a bit of innocent, inexpensive fun, many are unaware that it comes at a heavy price to real digital artists whose work has been copied to make it happen. A now-viral Facebook and Instagram post, made by a couple of digital illustrators, explains how.

Keep ReadingShow less

Tenacious D performs at the Rock in Pott festival.

The medley that closes out the second side of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album is one of the most impressive displays of musicianship in the band’s storied career. It also provided the perfect send-off before the band’s official breakup months later, ending with the lyrics, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

In 1969, “Abbey Road” was the last record the group made together, although “Let it Be,” recorded earlier that year, was released in 1970.

At first, the medley was just a clever way for the band to use a handful of half-finished tunes, but when it came together it was a rousing, grandiose affair.

Arranged by Paul McCartney and producer George Martin, the medley weaves together five songs written by McCartney, "You Never Give Me Your Money," "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window," "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight” and "The End," and three by John Lennon, “Sun King," "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam."

Fifteen seconds after the medley and the album’s conclusion, there is a surprise treat, McCartney’s 22-second “Her Majesty,” which wound up on the record as an accident.

Jack Black and Kyle Gass, collectively known as Tenacious D, recently reimagined two of the songs in the medley, "You Never Give Me Your Money" and "The End," for acoustic guitars for a performance on SiriusXM's Octane Channel. Like everything with Tenacious D, it showed off the duo’s impressive musical chops as well as their fantastic sense of humor.

The truncated version of the medley was also a wonderful tribute to the incredible work the Beatles did 53 years ago.

Warning: This video contains NSFW language.