Photo Credit: Marsha Greene's niece died at the age of 22. Photo courtesy of Marsha Greene
Black Expat: 'The U.S. Medical System Failed My Niece. She Died. I Moved To Brussels'
In 2018, Marsha Greene received a call that would change her life forever. Her niece was being rushed to the hospital unconscious and in a coma. Greene later learned that her niece was experiencing an allergic reaction to the GAD contrast agent (gadolinium contrast medium) for an MRI.
“She went into anaphylactic shock,” she told Travel Noire in an interview. “The worst part is that we are not certain the clinic did anything to help her as she lay dying in that MRI machine. They took the time to cut off her ID wrist band and send her to the hospital as ‘Jane Doe,’ but there is no indication that anyone tried to administer an EpiPen, perform CPR or any other life-saving measures.”
Greene, who has a background in molecular biology, said she once believed the U.S. medical system was the best in the world until her niece’s tragic death.
“The whole thing was a devastating shock to my system,” she added. “I just couldnt believe that this same system had failed my family so horribly.”
Losing her niece was the breaking point for Greene and her husband, so they packed up and moved to Brussels. In an interview with Travel Noire, Greene discusses more on why relocating to Brussels was the best decision for her sanity.
Travel Noire: What did you do immediately after your niece’s death?
Greene: In the days after my niece’s death, I reached out to every oversight agency, I could report this clinic and what they had done to her. I was met with brick walls. The level of deregulation on these types of outpatient clinics is astounding.
They are not equipped or even trained to handle emergencies and there is no oversight that forces them to do so.
I later learned that Gad contrast is a very controversial agent that has actually been banned from use in brain MRI’s in Europe. At that moment I realized that she would still be alive if we had been in another country. That was the moment that I decided that I was done. We left the US for Europe about one year later and I have no regrets.
Travel Noire: Can you tell us more about your life in Brussels since moving and why you felt moving was the best thing to do?
Greene: This was the best move for us because we finally have affordable healthcare and other basic social supports. It is really amazing to me that the US is perhaps the country that leads the world when it comes to medical innovations but ranks poorly compared with other developed nations in the delivery of that care.
We spend more money to basically provide among the worst quality of care in the developed world. It shows in outcomes such as maternal mortality, medical errors, and avoidable deaths in healthcare settings, all of which are significantly higher in the US than in other developed countries. Besides that, I also feel that our middle-class life is much more comfortable here due to affordable childcare and housing (both of which are problematic in the US, especially in large urban or suburban areas).
Travel Noire: How has moving abroad helped to cope with your loss?
Greene: I don’t think that being away has changed my grief, but being away has made it easier to cope. Changing the environment for me meant that it wasn’t in my face as much. I still miss her so much every day.
I remember back when she had first died, someone sent me a speech that had been given by President-elect Joe Biden. In it, he was speaking about his son Beau who had died very young as well. One thing he said that stuck with me was the following:
‘There will come a day, I promise you, when the thought of your son, or daughter, or your wife or your husband, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen.’
This is something that I have held on to. The grief is not as raw, and I feel I will get there eventually.
Travel Noire: What advice would you give our readers considering a ”Blaxit” move?
Greene: I think my advice for anyone considering Blaxit is to do it. The US is great in so many respects but it is increasingly not working for the middle class or the poor. It is set up to benefit the rich. The healthcare system is especially problematic particularly for people of color. There is a lot of systemic bias in the system, to begin with, but it is also set up as a capitalist money-making machine and not on helping people in need.
Anyone who tries to fight it immediately gets labeled a socialist. I do not see these systems being dismantled anytime soon. Life is short. Something I know all too well. So if you have the opportunity to do better somewhere else, then definitely seize that opportunity.
Travel Noire: Is there anything else you would like to tell us that I didn’t ask that you feel is important for this story?
Greene: The only thing I would like to say is that my niece was a wonderful young woman so full of promise and her life was taken from her. She was only 22 years old and she didn’t get to accomplish all the dreams I knew that she had.
I feel so sad knowing that if US regulators cared more about people than profits, she might actually be here still. I’m not sure I can live in a country that has such blatant disregard for people. I just can’t.