These Parents Suffered an Unfathomable Tragedy—Now They're Leading the Push for Single-Payer Health Care

Amy and David Vilela believe their daughter's death was entirely avoidable.

Photo Credit: The Real News Network / YouTube

At the annual People's Summit in Chicago, the Real News Network caught up with Las Vegas parents Amy and David Vilela, whose 22-year-old daughter Shalynne died in 2015 from deep-vein thrombosis. 

"I had to do what no parent should have to do, and that's have your daughter die in your arms," Amy Vilela told TRNN. 

Shortly before her death, Shalynne arrived at the emergency room with symptoms of a dangerous but treatable condition. But she was turned away by hospital staff because she did not have insurance. 

According to Rolling Stone, "the week after her daughter's death, Vilela opened a letter notifying Shalynne that she could sign up for COBRA, a government program that would have allowed temporary continuation of her employer-based insurance from a previous job."

Amy soon realized that her daughter actually had been insured when she visited the ER, though neither knew at the time. The family believes the hospital's treatment of Shalynne as an uninsured person is what ultimately caused her death.

"When I found out what had happened and realized the magnitude and [that] there were other Americans that are, you know, losing their life or they're navigating a serious illness without any means of paying for it, or they're worrying about that instead of worrying about getting better, I knew I couldn't stand by [and] remain silent," Amy said at the Summit. "That's why I got involved in fighting for Medicare for All." 

The People's Summit conference was organized by National Nurses United, a major backer of the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign and nationwide advocate for universal health care. The Vilelas hope to reform rather than dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

In Nevada, "we organized a couple of health care rallies, forming coalitions of different groups," David Vilela told TRNN. "Since then we've got one of our congresswomen, Dina Titus (D-NV-1), [to] co-sponsor [H.R.676 Expanded and Improved] Medicare for All." 


Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

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