To most individuals, the stuff contained in the containers could be an entire thriller. Coils of blue translucent wires compressed at an angle, like a porcupine in its burrow. Peel-off material squares the scale of a palm, meant to stay to pores and skin just like the quills of stated porcupines. What seem like both vape pens or souped-up Apple pencils stacked alongside capsules of clear liquid mirror the viewer’s perplexed expression proper again at them.
But to Steven Garcia Machuca, these things have been nothing apart from the nectar of life — for thousands and thousands of individuals with power illness, however notably the uninsured individuals of the Bay Area who Steven’s work serves. A pupil of public well being and well being coverage, Steven is pushed to handle the issues of entry to lifesaving drugs that hang-out U.S. drugs. He understands the way in which that, in case you don’t have entry to insurance coverage, you should not have entry to the drugs you could survive. You see, Steven (like myself) lives with power illness, leveraging these experiences to domesticate the resourcefulness that led him to Harvard — and to the lifetime of service he constructed exterior of it.
A primary-generation American, Steven grew up in a small Colorado city on the outskirts of Aspen. Among the powder and privilege, he had a front-row seat to inequities of entry from housing to healthcare. And he was decided to do one thing about it. Steven utilized to Harvard, the place he targeted on learning History of Science and Global Health and Health Policy. He was decided to learn the way discriminatory insurance policies could be modified to advertise therapeutic and respect it doesn’t matter what a affected person’s monetary means. And when Harvard made college students depart, Steven didn’t see any purpose to cease this work.
Immediately after being kicked off campus, Steven returned to Colorado. There, he took on a task as a Covid-19 contact tracer for his native well being division. Steven linked sufferers to rental help, meals help, and medical reduction applications. He realized how a lot misinformation was circulating about Covid-19 amongst his neighborhood. He realized how you can pay attention compassionately, how you can perceive views that, to most Harvard college students, would really feel illogical and worlds away. As one of many solely contact tracers bilingual in English and Spanish, Steven poured his vitality into guaranteeing that his neighborhood wasn’t left behind amidst ever-changing covid info and coverage.
At the identical time, Steven was a Harvard pupil totally immersed in his Canvas lessons, on prime of concurrently learning for the rigorous Crimson EMS program. The burnout was excessive, however he wanted the varsity medical insurance: if he have been to take a depart, he wouldn’t be capable of afford the drugs he wanted for day by day survival. So in an effort to fight a few of that burnout, Steven took his $5,000 housing stipend and rented a cubicle at his native WeWork. Rarely does anybody aspire to have a cubicle, however for Steven, it was a spot of much-needed separation between college, work, and residential life.
And but, working a full-time job whereas being an internet pupil can solely be sustainable for thus lengthy. But to take day without work, Steven would want to unravel the medical insurance drawback. After untold hours of analysis, cowl letters, and interviews, he landed a job with HealthCorps (a program of AmeriCorps) in San Francisco. In addition to well being advantages, the place got here with a stipend to cowl dwelling bills. Not to say, the function couldn’t be extra ideally aligned with Steven’s mission and values: Steven works as a diabetes care coordinator, enhancing outcomes for underserved sufferers with power illness. He helps a program referred to as Healthright 360 — one of many few within the nation that doesn’t flip away anybody due to their lack of ability to pay. There, Steven distributes medical provides for survival without cost to uninsured and underinsured sufferers. He additionally supplies instructional programming and containers of recent vegatables and fruits from the “food pharmacy,” freed from cost for anybody who wants them.
As Steven shares his story, I can really feel the glow in his face down the cellphone line. I can hear us each assume how, in a barely completely different life, we might be those receiving the emergency medical provides — not less than, we hope we might have entry to a program like this one.
At that second, feeling very a lot “at the mercy of geography and whether it shines or rains,” within the phrases of Tenille Townes, I can really feel our different lives pulsing beneath the floor. It’s not one thing we consider usually. At Harvard, we push them down deep, transcending their tragedies of inaccess by our relentless resourcefulness. But by our onerous work and creativity, our not-a-moment’s hesitation to know at any alternative that comes our means, now we have the braveness at moments like these to mirror. And to succeed in again.
— Abby T. Forbes ’22 is a Philosophy concentrator in Adams House. Her column “The Trades” seems on alternate Fridays.