We the Patients

When Health Care Fails – David’s Story

Meet David, a man who is disabled, undocumented, houseless, and fighting cancer—and he’s a cat dad.

At the beginning of last year, David lived at a housing facility in the Lower East Side. He was accompanied by a small tabby cat named Lucky, who became a close companion after David saved his life. But one year ago, David was diagnosed with a rare cancer. When they found cancer in his right arm and wounds in his left, the facility was able to advocate emergency Medicare for his treatment.

When health care fails

David was admitted to a Metropolitan Hospital in June of 2020 and began undergoing surgeries to remove the tumor in his arm. After receiving 20+ surgeries, he was discharged without rehab and sent back for lack of insurance only to find that his elbow had been dislocated during his care. The tumor is now returning, and recurring infections in his arms hinder his ability to move or hold down food. His friends raised hundreds of dollars to help pay for his care, but it only made him feel sicker. At the end, his treatment had left him in worse shape than he was before.

We had the privilege of speaking to David ourselves, and he shared some of his personal experiences with health care. When he first received surgery for his arm, he recalls leaving with a visibly injured elbow and experienced intense pain for two months. In his words, “You could see it didn’t look good—something was wrong.” He returned once it was discovered he had a dislocated elbow, and he once again had to undergo surgery.

When he came out from his surgery, he was told that the doctor had cut bones out of his elbow. He was shocked—no one had told him this would happen. The procedure was not explained to him beforehand: “And now my bones aren’t connected in my elbow.”

Moving on to better things

Fortunately, a caseworker was able to help transfer him to a different hospital. He now receives treatment from health care workers that are transparent with him at all times. He is treated significantly better and was even offered a translator in case he needed further help. As he expresses, “I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s so much better here.”

Finally, David now receives the health care that he deserves. His story speaks to the difference in quality care between hospitals. Immigrants receive different consideration from hospitals; they may not be offered a translator, or they may not be properly informed about their procedures. And beyond that, he received help where the health care system failed.

All patients deserve access to high quality care, regardless of their immigrant status, housing, or medical condition. David’s journey is finally taking a positive turn, and we hope to see our healthcare system do the same.

Check out a clip from his feature in the documentary Cat Daddies here (to follow along the story check out @catdaddiesmovie on social media):