Yacoob and his family moved to New York from India in 2006, and then made their way to St. Louis. Yacoob has five children, four of whom are hearing impaired. Two of his five children live abroad with family, all of them are eagerly awaiting news from immigration. His citizenship status and that of two of his children have all been pending for years, which has contributed to discrimination and denial of care in hospitals. Only one of his children is a full US citizen with access to Medicaid. Because of the bureaucracy denying his and his other sons’ rightful citizenship status, combined with the particularly restrictive state of health care in Missouri, his two sons with asthma who need cochlear implants but have no insurance, are unable to get any care here in Missouri.
As an uninsured immigrant, Yacoob himself has experienced severe mistreatment in St. Louis medical settings. In 2009, he fell from the roof of a three-story building and suffered severe limb and brain injuries. He went to the Hospital ER and was only admitted for fourteen days which he believes was not enough time to recover. When the physicians discovered he had no insurance, he was denied a visit from a neurologist and pain medication even though his pain level was so intense that he was screaming in pain and he was unable to see. He was given only steel cases on both of his arms, both of which were still bleeding, and when he was discharged no aftercare or physical therapy was scheduled. Yacoob’s medical emergency happened when is wife was 9 months pregnant with their fourth child. It was clear to Yacoob’s friends and family that he might not survive his injuries or have an adequate quality of life if he didn’t get more treatment, so he and his pregnant wife traveled back to India so that he could be seen by a neurologist and a physical therapist. “In India, there are government hospitals that will see you no matter what”, he says, “insurance does not matter”.
In 2016, back in St. Louis, he was in a car accident, and taken to a hospital in Springfield. When they found out he had no insurance, he was discharged quickly even though he arrived unconscious. He was escorted out of the hospital by security, in a wheelchair. “It’s like there’s never any room at the inn for us in the current system”, he says.
In addition to the obvious discrimination he has faced in hospitals during these emergencies, he also suffers from cardiac issues and chronic stress. Both of his parents have passed away from cardiac arrest and his brother had a heart attack recently. The stress of being an unemployed immigrant in St. Louis with no air conditioning or heating in his home makes his chronic stress much worse. Yacoob experiences daily pain and migraines from his 2009 fall. He is considering moving to Boston or New York where it is easier to qualify for Medicaid. Though Yacoob is only 50 years old, he has regular conversations with his young children about plans for what they must do if he dies.