Friday, December 5, 2008
Leif at Work a Year Ago - Age 32
Last December 20, 2007, Leif took this photo of himself at work. I found it on his computer after his death, yet another photo he had not shared with us. He rarely emailed photos to us. He was a telephone customer service agent for Medicare Part D and spent his workdays logged in on a computer and phone system accepting calls. Leif was good at his job and prided himself on his ability to explain things to people thoroughly and compassionately, but he came to abhor the US health care system because of its unfairness, with some people unable to get care without insurance and enormous amounts of money. Leif had health insurance because he was a military retiree and had VA benefits as well as health insurance from his job, and he was adamant about the need for universal health insurance. He felt terrible about having to explain to those who did have health insurance why something that was critical to their care wasn't covered.
I remember when Leif first came home from the army and wasn't yet permanently medically retired so the possibility of him losing his military benefits and health insurance was real. Even though he had asthma, he had the youthful expectation of good health and couldn't see why he should be concerned about finding a job with health insurance and benefits. Later, as his health deteriorated, his medications grew more expensive, and when he had to have the collarbone operation in July 2007, it became very important that he had health insurance. The bills for his operation alone totalled over $50,000, though they were greatly reduced by the limits the insurance had negotiated. Even so, he had out of pocket expenses that ruined his budget.
It's hard to believe Leif took this photo just under a year ago, and now he's gone. We never saw his workplace. After he died, we picked up the few belongings he had there in a box brought to our car by his team leader. There weren't many, but the box was heavy, mostly with the big jug of pennies that he had used to build the copper penny space ship in his cubicle. I posted a photo of that before. There was also the headset he's using in this photo, certificates of training, a one-year service award and commendation certificates, pens, pencils, and that's about all. You can see one of the commendation award certificates in the photo.
It would have been healthier for Leif to be in a job where he interacted directly with people. He was too isolated, both at work and at home. It might not have made a difference, but I think he would have been happier if he had had a job dealing with people and ideas and more activities with friends outside of work.