May 2016 Editorial Winner

Open letter to Oklahoma legislators
Carol Conner, The Fairfax Chief

So we've come to the last days of the legislature without solving the Medicaid crisis to save our fragile elderly, our children, our nursing homes and our rural hospitals. Because the name of the solution is Affordable Care Act, and because our legislators have committed to not accepting what they erroneously call "Obamacare ”, we are headed to the June 1 deadline where 97% of nursing homes in the state will struggle for survival, then close.
Oklahoma citizens live in these nursing homes.
Some of you may know that my dear sister, Edith, is one of these. My shame at our state’s failure to help her and her friends at Fairfax Manor is intense.
I have ALWAYS been a proud Okie. When the Oklahoma City bombing occurred, I happened to be in New Mexico for business. Everyone at the meeting I attended asked repeatedly what would happen. I assured them that everything would be alright. Without hearing reports to this effect, I told them that I was sure that folks from around the bombing area and the state were headed to OKC to help out. I told them that Okies know what to do in a disaster, and they just do it.
The resulting efforts that impressed the country and the world is called “The Oklahoma Standard".
But now, we have legislators who, due to some political agenda to which they have committed, are ready to turn my sister and her friends out on the street.
My sister has had cerebral palsy since birth. She never walked, has always been in a wheelchair, but has always remained defined by her strengths, not her problems. Oklahoma created a place called the Cerebral Palsy Institute in Norman and when she was young, she spent a great deal of time there, receiving treatments, schooling, and speech therapy, all the help she needed.
When her time there ended, our public school system sent a teacher to our home to educate her. When High School beckoned, an Oklahoma public school system figured out a way to bus her to school and have FFA boys carry her up the flights of stairs at our school. This was all long before the Americans with Disabilities Act. This was the Oklahoma Standard at work before it was called that. Edith is a proud graduate of Kingfisher High School.
Now, five decades later, our state legislator is simply failing to fulfill its’ obligation to her and the many others like her in our state. She has lived at the Fairfax Manor for nearly a decade. Her care requires lots of lifting, and much loving medical attention provided by the excellent nurses and medical team we have here. They have seen her through multiple hospitalizations, both here and in Tulsa.
Edith is an inspiration to everyone. Her determination to live, to survive and thrive multiple hospitalizations, endless seizures, the shunning of those who don’t understand, makes all who know her wish to be a better person. Little things, the beautiful sunshine, the cattle across the road, a puzzle to work on, and the smiles of residents and friends who visit please her immensely.
My sorrowful guess is that many of Edith’s friends will pass soon after the Nursing Home closes. The fragility of their hold on life is apparent to me on the daily basis that I see them. As the owner of the Nursing Home told me, moving to another state that solved Medicaid issues is the best option. Fragile folks rarely survive such a move. The death sentence imposed on these folks, my friends, is something I don’t take lightly. They have committed no crimes, caused no political repercussions, and simply wish to continue their lives as long as possible.
But care for Edith, her friends at Fairfax Manor, and all across our great state will come to an end if our legislators do not find in themselves the strength and determination that Edith and many others in her situation have. I have no way of knowing the pressures brought to bear on legislators I do know that when people decide that other people, often terribly unlike them, have the right to live as much as they do, great things can happen.
Do not make our impossibly hard won Oklahoma Standard a sham. There is still time to do the right, although possibly politically hard, thing. Have the courage that Edith has had throughout her life. Take the ugliness life might hand you, and make the wonderful life that all Oklahomans have a right to. Listen up - it's time to fix our budget problem – Oklahoma lives depend on it.

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