Ebb And Flow Of Daily Crises

SOURCE:    By Terry Hughes

PUBLICATION: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

DATE: July 11, 1991

AS THE STRANGER'S VOICE on the telephone started to lay out her story, my first thought was, ''Not this again.''

So while Kim Slivinski talked, I began to mentally compose a polite refusal, an explanation that, no, I don't do that kind of story, but let me find someone who can take a brief item and then I'll pass it on to an editor, and . . . .


It was a sad story, a new one - but yet, one I have heard so many times that it is becoming impossible to contain the rage stirred by the tale.

Part of it was Slivinski's voice. Calm, controlled, just the facts. When she had every right to be screaming.

Maybe it's up to us to scream for her.


I'm the mother of a 4-month-old daughter who has a rare liver disease, Slivinski said. Without a liver transplant, they say Danyelle will probably die before her 1st birthday. We live near Harvester.

We were supposed to go to Pittsburgh this week for an evaluation, to get Danyelle on a waiting list for a transplant, but we had to cancel at the last minute, the mother said. We found out the insurance will cover only $10,000 of the $25,000 for the tests. We need to come up with a $15,000 deposit to get things started.


So we've set up a trust fund. Can you write something?

She said it all just like that - clearly, logically, completely organized.

You could hear that she was tired. When asked - and only when asked - she admitted that yes, she was tired. Yes, this was an ordeal.

In short, Kim and her husband, Russ Slivinski, have spent the last two months watching layer after layer stripped from the bundle of hopes and dreams in which they had wrapped their new baby girl. And they will go on like this for - months? Years? No one can say.


There will be pain, and they will suffer.


But for Kim Slivinski, right now, that is not the point.

Last month, my colleague Bill McClellan wrote a beautiful and touching column about the medicine-by-bake-sale that has become so much a part of our world.

He talked, in particular, about a little boy who needs new lungs and, in general, about the letters and calls that come to us here at the Post-Dispatch - and every other newspaper and magazine and television station that might get the word out - every day of the year from people caught in similar nightmares.

Bill also tried to explain how difficult it is to do one story, because it only brings another call from someone equally needy, equally desperate, equally worthy of our words and time.


I thought then - and I still do - that Bill had said it all.

But Kim Slivinski called Wednesday morning. And I wanted to scream. It suddenly became impossible, almost immoral, not to repeat what had already been said.


Earlier this week, another random contact arrived in the mail. It was a commentary piece from a think tank that has of late been filling my mailbox with studies and editorials ''for your consideration.'' That's what people at think tanks do - think and commit those thoughts to paper and then scatter them to the four winds of the U.S. Postal Service to see where they land.

The latest to land on my desk was written by a professor of philosophy at some university. He said our health care system had become a costly, inefficient mess.

It's the fault of too much government regulation, the professor said, and those ninnies screaming for national health insurance will only make it worse.

The professor went on to say that government ought to leave people alone, to quit forcing them to buy insurance they don't want, and to stop stealing tax money from hard workers to pay for the other guy's needs. If someone can't afford something, the professor said, they can always beg. What do we have all these charitable organizations for, anyway? he asked.


I would give you more details, but I pitched the thing into the recycling bin and someone emptied it last night. Still, you get the picture.

He would be proud of Kim Slivinski. She knows just where she stands. She is making the phone calls. She is doing what she has to do and doing it quickly.

The family has set up a trust fund at Boatmen's National Bank. Checks may be made out to the bank, with a note that the money is for the Danyelle Lee Slivinski fund, account number 730207314942. You can make a donation at any Boatmen's outlet, or mail a check to Boatmen's National Bank; Branch Services Division; 510 Locust Street, LTC-8603; St. Louis, Mo., 63101.


So the Slivinskis join the ranks of anguished Moms and Dads, counting on the kindness of strangers.

That is the system. That is how we cover, in 1991, our hopes and our health.


The professor likes it. Do you?