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What I know

What I know:

I know that short Jewish girls from New York do get shot.

I know that time does stand still.

I know that my grandmother was right to remind me to wear nice underwear in case it had to be cut off on the concrete in front of the grocery store on a sunny Saturday morning.

I know that total strangers will put themselves in danger to save the lives of others.

I know that being a passenger in a medevac helicopter is a very cool experience, and that I was right to turn my head and see my town spread out below me.

I know that I am loved.

I know that it is possible to watch the light go out of another person's eyes. I do not know if it is possible to live with that knowledge. I do know that I will try.

I do not know why.

I do not understand.

Photo credit: JPetersenPhotography

I was 58 years old when I received the robocall: Hi, this is your congresswoman, Gabby Giffords. I'm holding a "Congress on Your Corner" event tomorrow near you. Come and tell me how government can work better for you.

It was January 8, 2011.

I took my 9-year-old friend with me. She didn’t think it was nerdy at all. Totally unprompted, she wanted to know what committee Giffords was on so she knew what to ask her about. No, sweetie, this event is about people like you. What do you care about? The environment! she said, and she thought up a question. I never heard it.

The congresswoman arrived with a photographer, and the thought of an autographed picture of the two of them had us jumping for joy ...

... until the gunshots began ...

… until I saw blood pouring out of a hole in the leg of my favorite skinny jeans ...

... until we were lying on the ground.

I held her hand as she died.

I lay bleeding on the sidewalk, tended by citizen heroes who poured out of the market. Waiting for the first responders, strangers pressed their hands on my wounds, trying to stop the hemorrhaging. That’s what we do as Americans. We take care of each other.

I took a medevac to the hospital—a $14,000 ride. I was in Intensive Care for four days. I received six units of blood. I had a shattered hip, a broken rib, and uncontrolled internal bleeding. My lung was separated from my chest wall. They performed two surgeries, several days apart. I had physical therapy and occupational therapy. Social work and psychiatric services were available to help me and my family. The anesthesiologist and the surgeons were frequent visitors. They gave me all the care they could provide.

They billed for all that care.

If you absolutely must get shot, I recommend doing so in the presence of a sitting member of the United States Congress. My injuries were the result of a federal crime; I had the resources of our government to help with the bills after I maxed out my private insurance, more than surpassing my lifetime cap.

I also recommend making sure there’s no such thing as a cap on health care. Without Obamacare, even with the help I received, I would have been uninsured and uninsurable from age 58 onward.

The hospital bill that I saw—not including the doctors, therapists, treatments and equipment—was $145,000. That was just room and board for the 11 days I was there. If the lifetime cap hadn’t been outlawed by the Affordable Care Act, I couldn’t have had the follow-up X-rays, doctor visits, and therapies that I needed to help me heal, let alone any routine medical care—mammograms, flu shots—I might need in the future.

All of those expenses were the result of the shooting. I was a citizen in the right place at a terrible time and, through no fault of my own, I'd become uninsurable ... except for Obamacare.

I know I’m only walking now because of Obamacare.

How terrifying to think what could have been if I hadn’t been shot 10 feet from my congresswoman.

Don't let Congress take our health care away. This congressional recess, be there to speak out. Bullet holes or no bullet holes, I'm not giving up my voice. You shouldn't, either.

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