In her one-woman play, “Let Me Down Easy,” Anna Deavere Smith acts out 20 different peoples’ accounts of their experiences being diagnosed with a terminal illness and navigating the often confusing and frustrating world of healthcare in their attempts to regain their health.
From celebrities like Lance Armstrong and Lauren Hutton, to regular people like the playwright’s aunt, Smith uses her subjects’ experiences with health crises to paint a picture of a disparate healthcare landscape where wealth and influence can, at the very least, make your situation more palatable, and at most, save your life.
While Armstrong was able to assemble a team of top physicians to help him beat testicular cancer and go on to become a cycling legend, Dr. Kiersta Kurtz-Burke told Smith of her patients at Charity Hospital in New Orleans being abandoned by the government during Hurricane Katrina while patients at other hospitals were evacuated to safer locations.
Dr. Kurtz-Burke spoke of how that experience changed her way of thinking about what she could offer her community. Where she had once thought herself capable of providing the same level of care to every member of society, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina opened her eyes to the obstacles imposed by a patient’s financial means:
“(I thought) that you can take care of poor people, and you can take care of them as well as you take care of rich people. All those walls came down.”
Dr. Kurtz-Burke is a board certified physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist in New Orleans, Louisiana. To learn more about Dr. Kurtz-Burke, visit her Vitals profile.