Both stories are sad. One, however, is inspirational – the other is a tragedy.
The inspirational story is written by a man whose courage has inspired millions and garnered national attention. It started with a horrible diagnosis 13 years ago. His story, and the history he is making, continues today.
The tragic story ended when Sean Tagert died earlier this month. In Canada.
That last part matters.
While Sean Tagert is not a name you have heard or read, most everyone recognizes Steve Gleason. Mr. Gleason is the famous local athlete who made a name for himself on the football field. Since he was diagnosed with ALS he has done much greater things.
His story is one that seems pre-ordained.
While Steve Gleason was a fantastic athlete, he was just one of many dozens of role players in the NFL. Few people knew he played on the special teams for the New Orleans Saints.
Until he blocked that punt.
While a blocked punt can be exciting, it typically is not the stuff of highlight reels ten years later. But the punt Steve Gleason blocked came in the first game played in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. That gave his block special impact and became a play replayed many hundreds of times.
A replay that would spread beyond football fans when Steve Gleason joined the truly famous people several years later.
Mr. Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. Since that diagnosis, his story has become one of courage and dignity – with that special highlight reel from 2006 a part of the telling.
Steve Gleason and his wife have raised millions of dollars for the fight against ALS, as horrible a disease as any. Their work has been the subject of a movie, numerous media reports and broadcasts. Mr. Gleason has been honored by countless organizations, including the NFL, and will soon receive the highest honor this country gives to civilians, the Congressional Gold Medal.
Steve Gleason is an exceptional person. One of a rare breed who faces adversity the rest of us cannot fathom – and defies it.
People who knew Sean Tagert agree he also was an exceptional man. Mr. Tagert, like Steve Gleason, suffered from ALS. While he died August 6, the disease – for which there is no cure and is always fatal – did not kill him.
That’s not to say ALS had not ravaged his body. It had. At the time of his death the disease has progressed to a point that Mr. Tagert needed 24-hour a day care. But that cost money.
More money than the Canadian government would pay.
But the government would provide the money to kill him.
In fact, given his choices, in late July Mr. Tagert decided to accept the option of doctor-assisted suicide. It was the drugs purchased by his government health plan, not the disease, that killed him.
There is more to the story. In fact, his government health plan offered to pay all but $263.50 of the daily cost of his home health care. He did not have the money, so that was not possible. In addition, his government health plan offered to ship him to a facility where he believed he would receive inferior care. And die. Alone.
Instead he chose to die with his family. Free of charge – courtesy of his government health care plan.
Mr. Tagert’s story is especially timely. Today there are oodles of Democrats – the very best the party has to offer – clamoring for government health care while pledging to eliminate private insurance.
In fact, these same politicians sing the praises of the Canadian health system – the very same system that paid to kill Sean Tagert.
So it could save $263.50 a day.
DAN HAMMES is publisher of the Gazette Record.