Several years ago in another career, I was blessed to work in a critical care unit which included patients who were seeking heart transplants. Some had congenital heart disorders, some had circulatory problems such as extreme hypertension, some had heart-valve disease or disorders, some had unusual infections or viruses, some had drug use and alcoholism problems -- in each case, the problem had resulted in heart failure.
Too many of these patients were there because of lifestyle choices and behaviors that took a toll on one of their most important organs, the heart.
One patient will always linger in my memory. He was a successful businessman with a picture-perfect family from a coastal state. His heart failure was secondary to his alcoholism, drug use and other organ damage. He had successfully moved through treatment overseen by his local cardiologist before landing in our unit.
As his condition worsened, it was becoming apparent that even with a new heart from a generous transplant donor the overall state of his health would not improve.
His case could be a metaphor for modern America, which has also become financially ill because of bad decisions. Reckless behavior and an addiction to government spending has created a dependent class of individuals and businesses.
America's heart, her pump, is our free-enterprise system. Over time, America has been excessively strained during times of war, by terrorism and global unrest, during the erratic lurches and lunges of policy directives that harm the nation, our nation's body.
There's a feeble attempt for her heart to push through its network of vessels enough work, production, and commerce to keep the patient alive.
The United States is in critical condition. The debt crisis that has drained the earning capacity of American workers is based on the addiction to government spending.
It's a stunning admission to hear calls for more revenue (taxes) on the newly defined "rich" (any person or small business that earns $250,000 annually or more) demanded as an absolutely necessary part of the equation to solve the nation's problem of excessive spending.
The view that America is at its best when it offers opportunity to anyone who is willing to strive and earn success is now rejected. Instead, a weakened, flabby, pale economy is the new normal after years of abuse to America's well-being.
The disorder has been inflicted from within by irresponsible spending on items like corrupt government contractors and lazy well-bodied individuals who exist on the backs of those who strive, rewriting the law of the harvest from, "You reap what you sow," to, "A few of you sow, a few of you reap, and everyone gets their fair share."
The affable businessman who made a last-ditch effort to improve his health status and attempted to qualify for an organ transplant perished. The family was devastated and experienced enormous guilt.
They all recognized that poor choices and the enabling of unhealthy behavior over two decades had consequences that were unintended, yet very real and permanent.
America's in systemic failure. The patient has endured and given much. It's time for aggressive intervention that addresses the cause, not that perpetuates an almost lifeless existence.
America can regain its health and life; the heartbeat of our nation can be strong again.
Robin Smith is a wife and mother living in Hixson. She served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2007 to 2009.