The worst thing about being in the hospital at night is the beeping.
In 2009 I became paralyzed. I got Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which arrests your nervous system so your body can't take signals from your brain. I was in intensive care for four months, and rehab for another six. I could see, hear, and think clearly, but I couldn't feel anything or move. I've written about that here: the failure of my body, the baffling lack of pain, the eventual recovery. But I've never written about the beeping.
When you are in the hospital at night, the beeping is constant. Heart monitors and breathing monitors and medication monitors and X-rays and computers. In your room and in the hallway and across the wing. Every one at a different cadence, a different volume. The hospital requires this feedback. Nothing has made me feel less human.
You can't sleep when you hear the beeping. Can't meet your body's most essential need. Or if you do sleep, you can't rest, because the beeping punches holes in your dreams. Muted by illness, your personality melts into exhaustion. Joy and creativity are unreachable. You have no peace of mind. Your friends see the bags under your eyes, hear you muttering, failing to connect, and they wonder if you're getting worse, if you're going to die. You wonder too.
The beeping is a relentless reminder that you are in danger. That your time is passing. That you are not free. The beeping is fear.
I think about the beeping all the time.
Decent's mission is "Affordable healthcare for all." I've written that phrase thousands of times. And we're on our way: our plans cost 40% less than market rates, with a Net Promoter Score of 73 in an industry where the average score is 14. But I've never written about why Decent matters to me. Sometimes I say it's because I became paralyzed, and having affordable healthcare saved my life. That is true, but not complete. It's because I was not free. And when I look around, I believe too many people are not free. I believe they hear the beeping too.
When you lose your job, and COBRA is so expensive you understand why it was named after a snake. When you're trying to make ends meet, and would struggle to pay a $400 medical bill. When you go without insurance and just hope you won't get sick. When you keep a job you hate to support your family. When you listen for too long to your head instead of your heart, and you start to forget your own why.
I have done all of these things, and I know. You hear the beeping. You can't sleep. You are not free.
And when you are not free we all suffer, because freedom drives progress. Freedom is not a zero sum game.
Most new jobs come from people choosing freedom, and building something new. Most innovation. Most progress.
When you are free, you can tolerate a lot. You can find out what you are capable of. Your work can feel like joy.
It shouldn't be so expensive to be free.
At Decent we believe that freedom is the highest value.
We build products that make it less expensive to be free. To make the beeping stop.
Our first product is health insurance.
Me in the hospital in 2009