the gleevec man

Towards the end of her life my mother was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia. Fortunately, a year before her diagnosis a new genetic drug, Gleevec, was approved which literally saves patients suffering from this disease from certain death. Unfortunately, Gleevec is extremely expensive. The average patient simply can not afford the drug and insurance coverage is also difficult. My mother was able to qualify for a financial assistance program that made the drug available to her. Gleevec saved her life and enabled her to live into her nineties.

In my synagogue community, before the pandemic a regular flow of individuals would come to the neighborhood to solicit charitable donations for worthy institutions and people in need. Before being permitted to solicit they are screened and if approved issued a certificate allowing them to solicit among community members. The certificate provides basic information including the need or purpose for which the individual is soliciting.

Several years after my mother passed away, a solicitor knocked on our door. I opened the door, welcomed him in, and reviewed his certificate. One word jumped off of the page – Gleevec! I asked the gentlemen about his circumstance and he explained that as a result of his illness and the exorbitant cost of Gleevec he could not afford the medication and thus, was left to soliciting charity donations to help pay for the medication. Of course, we immediately responded to his request for funds knowing how absolutely critical – life saving – Gleevec was for this gentleman. Since that first visit this lovely sickly man has made an annual visit to our home for financial assistance.

Since mid-March of this year solicitors stopped coming to our home. The world -wide pandemic has made it virtually impossible for them to travel and raise funds by face to face solicitation. That is until until this past Sunday when there was knock on our door and a thin, sickly man in a Covid-19 mask, leaning on a metal cane smiled at me, and said hello. It was the gentleman who needs assistance to pay for his Gleevec. While the Covid-19 pandemic presents serious risks to his health, without Gleevec he would die. And so he has no choice but to take his annual trip and solicit from city to city, community to community, to raise the fund he needs to pay for this life saving medication.

How absurd! The world has virtually shut itself down because there is no vaccine for Covid-19. Money is no object when it comes to that vaccine, if only money alone would solve that problem. Yet, at the same time, there are life savings medications like Gleevec access to which are denied to those who can not afford them .

There is something very wrong with this picture. Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Chronic Myeloid Leukemia

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