Despite the reluctance of private media to publicly challenge Shona Holmes' veracity about her condition and prognosis, the Hamilton Spectator today ran a story about a woman with the same last name who is receiving a flurry of phone calls very critical of Shona Holmes' lending herself to the American right wing for propaganda purposes. The paper finally reveals (undoubtedly after much soul-searching) that Holmes had a cyst, not a tumour, removed at the Mayo Clinic. I have taken the liberty of reproducing the story below:
Couple getting abusive calls meant for Canadian health critic
July 23, 2009
THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR
(Jul 23, 2009)
I am NOT Shona Holmes.
Waterdown resident Palmira Holmes wants angry callers to know she is not the same Holmes from Waterdown whose problems with Canadian health care have made her the U.S. poster girl for forces opposed to President Barack Obama's health-care plan.
Palmira Holmes has been inundated with phone calls from people trying to express their fury over Shona Holmes' decision to become the face of an aggressive American TV ad that slams Canadian-style health care.
Airing in 50 states as Shona's Story, the ad has Holmes explaining: "I survived a brain tumour, but if I had relied on my government for health care, I'd be dead."
Palmira Holmes says "it was like being bombarded" in the last few days as critics called constantly, thinking they'd reached Shona Holmes. Palmira's number is listed as S. Holmes for husband Stephen.
Callers have shouted, called her a liar and tried to shame her, but they are venting to the wrong person.
"We are not related. I don't even know her," said Palmira. "I wasn't even aware this was going on until people started calling me."
It isn't a surprise the other Holmes family is getting calls. Shona Holmes has ignited an issue of clear emotional importance.
Canadian media websites that have carried items on the ad have registered more than 1,000 critical online comments since Monday. A key area of discussion for critics is whether the facts about Holmes' case are accurately portrayed.
"It's unclear to me exactly what her condition was, and why she was put on the waiting list," said Kenneth Sherman, national chair of Democrats Abroad, an organization of American expats who live here but still vote in the U.S.
"No matter what her situation was, it's the worst example of the Canadian system, not the norm."
Holmes came to public attention in 2007 when she and another Ontario resident launched a lawsuit against the Ontario government, alleging undue wait times.
Her statement of claim, filed in the Ontario Superior Court, says Holmes began to get headaches, disturbed vision and other symptoms in March 2005, but was told she had to wait more than seven weeks for an MRI, over four months for a neurology consultation and over six months for a consultation with another specialist.
The MRI in May 2005 "showed an 8-9 mm tumour" and subsequent tests "confirmed a significant loss of vision in both eyes," the statement of claim says.
Concerned by the projected wait for treatment, Holmes had the symptoms evaluated at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, which identified a Rathke's cleft cyst, a fluid-filled sac that grows near the pituitary gland at the base of the brain.
The statement of claim says the Mayo Clinic urged Holmes "to have the cyst surgically removed immediately to avoid the risk of permanent blindness and death."
That operation took place in Arizona in August 2005. Her lawsuit against Ontario is on hold until a hearing this fall to try to recoup the $100,000 cost from OHIP.
Shona Holmes has said she feels so strongly about faults in the Canadian system that she had to act when contacted by the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, which opposes government involvement in health care. The group is among many lobbyists working to derail Obama's plan.
Sherman says Democrats Abroad -- which supports Obama -- is so incensed by misrepresentations of the Canadian system that it will run a counter campaign.
"Most of us members, like myself, have had insurance coverage in both systems, so we know the pitfalls as well as the benefits of both," Sherman said. "Americans here in Canada feel we have a unique tale to tell. We're going to share that with letters and phone calls to our congressmen and back to hometown newspapers ..."
Meanwhile, Palmira Holmes has had to warn her eight-year-old son not to answer the phone. Palmira said the family can't even change their number because they run their business from home.
"I just can't shut it off."
She has called Hamilton police to find out what she could do and is waiting to hear back.
"I'm just stressed and terrified."