Amy Vilela

My Healthcare Story

My daughter, Shalynne, was a very funny, loving and determined young woman. She had just driven from Kansas City to Las Vegas to complete schooling to become a RN. She worked two jobs as a CNA and was in the waiting period for health insurance.

In June of 2015, she fell and went to the ER in excruciating pain with a red, swollen leg. The staff immediately asked if she had INSURANCE. Shalynne replied “No.” She begged for an MRI and medications to treat her 8-out-of-10 pain, to no avail. They told her “Go get insurance and see a specialist, we are not a doctor’s office.”

If we had universal healthcare, insurance would not have had an impact on Shalynne’s care. Her doctors would have asked the important questions and treated her pain. They’d have known that, in addition to her red and swollen leg, she was African American/Caucasian, taking birth control, with sickle cell trait, and she’d just completed a 22-hour drive on an injured knee which would have required testing for a blood clot. Because they didn’t do the basic screening they didn’t uncover the blood clot that had been forming in her leg since her drive from Kansas City. Having a blood clot while flying is life threatening.

On June 25th Shalynne took a flight back to Kansas City. The blood clot broke off in her leg and caused a massive pulmonary embolism. The next morning her father called and said Shalynne had woken up with severe chest pain. She coded in the ambulance. It took 59 minutes to stabilize her. Walking into her hospital room, it finally hit me how bad it was. I saw my daughter intubated and hemorrhaging. She never regained consciousness. When the time came to ready her for donation I held her hand as they removed the breathing tubes then climbed on her bed and held her as she took her last breaths.

Shalynne didn’t have to die. I could not remain silent knowing that other mothers and loved ones would feel the immense pain I’ve lived through if our healthcare system does not change. I knew some of my friends and family would be opposed to my activism. I also feared the pain that I would be reliving each time I told her story. It is difficult but I know I am her legacy and voice and telling her story is honoring her. Having access to healthcare is a basic human right and denying it to those in need is inhumane. I realized that now is the time to be politically involved. We need to tell our stories and put a face to the fight for healthcare for all!

City/Town: Las Vegas, Nevada
Organization: Healthcare-NOW! Nevada
Email: amy [at]


  1. Garry Harriman on March 28, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    As a British permanent resident, I view the US in less than a positive light on many factors. I feel the USA is an oligarchy and is really controlled by an unseen elite including the Presidency, the Congress and every State House. I feel there are millions of good, decent, hard working people who are battling just to pay the bills and working 2 or more jobs to do so. It is a great country, but a very unequal country that seems to love military spending and siding with multinational corporations rather than the average working/middle class person. The American health system is, in my understanding the only example in the entire developed world where a single payer/universal guaranteed coverage model does not exist. In my view, this is by fart the most abhorrent and urgent issue affecting this nation that, above all others, must be addressed NOW if the USA wishes to call itself a civilized nation in the 21st century. The fear disseminated from corporate media regarding a single payer system and the `evils` of `socialized medicine` are unfounded and flat out false. People need to be better informed, medical professionals and the public alike and take bring this attention of all political debate, nationally and regionally and make this nation a better place to live, work and be ill in!

  2. Sam Bergman, MD on May 18, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    I am a strong proponent of single payer healthcare for the US, but one aspect of this story does not make sense. I’m a retired emergency physician so I know what I’m talking about here. As bad as our system os in terms of accessibility and cost, for quite a number of years now it has been a federal requirement that all emergency rooms MUST do an initial assessment and stabilization of anyone who presents for care irrespective of insurance status. If that hospital is not able to adequately manage the given problem it is obligated to arrange for transfer to a facility that can – and this is only after the 1st facility has had direct contact with a qualified provider at the 2nd one to be sure it can infact handle the situation. This case is much more than the unfortunate result of financial issues. It is a clear and serious criminal violation.

    • Amy Vilela on May 30, 2017 at 6:41 pm

      You are correct that they are required to do a medical screening sufficient to rule out emergent conditions under EMTALA. Unfortunately, they violated EMTALA and we are now in Federal Court for those violations. Many ER’s will perform a wallet biopsy so as to not find an emergent condition. Shalynne is not the first and won’t be the last to be discriminated against based on insurance status as long as we have the current profit driven healthcare system.