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Welcome To The Gap

By Raheem Hosseini

Skip Getz is taking the long way toward making his point. Literally. He´s taking six weeks and walking 1,285 miles to do it.

The 45-year-old Los Gatos father of two is in the second week of “Skip´s Walk,” a self imposed trek from Los Gatos to Boulder, Colo. that passed out of Amador County on Monday to raise both money and awareness about a physical disability that afflicts his eldest son, a 6-year-old boy named Galen who is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. In the process, Getz is also making a pointed commentary about a medical system that fails to help its most vulnerable.

Because once Getz, who is himself recovering from a brain tumor doctors have just told him may require additional radiation, returns to work, he could lose the MediCal insurance that has so far covered his family.

“Because of our preexisting conditions, I cannot get private insurance for my family,” he said on the way out of Pine Grove on Monday. And for an incurable neurological condition like cerebral palsy, which affects voluntary muscle movement, the physical therapy bills alone can be astronomical.

“There are a lot of gap people like me,” he said.

Millions of them, in fact. Nearly 47 million Americans are without health insurance, with 6.5 million of those living in California. Which makes Getz´s struggle a personal one, but not at all unique. The unique part is in how he chose to deal with it, with a multi-state march seeming like a more realistic and palatable notion than deliberately staying poor just so MediCal won´t cut him off.

The idea came to Getz, a former mediation instructor and handyman, while he was hiking in the mountains near his home three months after his brain surgery.

There he was, contemplating his family´s situation, “all that stuff weighing really heavily on me,” he said, when the idea came to him. Remembering some advice he gave to a friend about how the answers to life´s big questions are usually right under our noses, Getz asked himself what was under his nose.

“Walking feet,” he concluded.

And like a bolt of lightening, he knew then that he had to walk all the way to Colorado, where the family moved from so Galen could be enrolled in a special school, and that the walk would begin on Easter Sunday, with Getz and Galen taking the first 1,285 feet of this epic walk together.

“He´s brilliant,” Getz raves about his son. “He moves a little funny and he talks a little funny, but he´s no different from anyone else.”

Doctors say that with a lot of hard work, Galen is a good candidate to walk, but Getz expects the costs for these medical “alternatives,” as they´re deemed, to run into the hundreds of thousands dollars.

“My primary goal is to raise money for my family,” he said.

If there´s any left over after the medical costs and physical therapy, Getz would also like to invest in an organic foods business a friend started in Colorado.

As for the rest of uninsured America, maybe it´s time to happen upon similarly offbeat ideas. While universal health care is shaping up to be a central issue going into the next presidential election, and while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been touting his own health care reform plan, if the choice was between actually fixing our health care system and walking thousands of miles through varying weather and road conditions, I´m pretty sure I know which path our leaders would take.

For more information, visit www.skipswalk.com

Reprinted with permission from the Amador Ledger Dispatch