For the next 24 long, hot hours Rosary Solimanto will lie lifeless in a coffin outside of the offices of senators Kirsten Gellibrand and Chuck Schumer, to protest the “fast tracking” of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“If I don’t get proper medical care in the near future, that coffin’s going to be for real,” Solimanto said during an interview explaining why she was planning the performance protest.
Shortly after 1 p.m. today, Solimanto climbed into the box where she plans to remain until Wednesday, which happens to be Donald Trump’s birthday. Most of the passersby who noticed her looked confused, some intrigued and some scared. Some stopped to take the handouts that Solimanto brought with her.
During the next 24 hours, Solimanto won’t eat, drink or move. She also won’t be able to take the medicine she needs every four hours for her hypothyroid disease, so she’ll have a friend administer it.
Solimanto is performing Dead Without Health Care in front of the New York senators’ midtown offices because she says they’re not speaking out against Trump’s proposals and they’re not doing anything to ensure that the public will have full health care coverage in the future. She’s devoted to advocating for affordable health care for all, especially the disabled, because she also has some medical conditions and has experienced losing her own business, her family and independence.
Multiple sclerosis. Endometriosis. Trigeminal neuralgia, arthritis, hypothyroid disease, gluten and corn allergies, protruding discs in her spine, digestive issues, extreme fatigue and depression. Solimanto has had all of these conditions since she lost sight in her right eye at 22-years-old. The “adaptations,” as Solimanto calls them, and the way she said society and doctors have negatively labeled and treated her caused her to slip into depression.
“I kind of think of myself like the moon where I wax and wane,” she said. “I have good days and I have bad days. Or periods of time. But I’ve learned mentally how to deal with it now which is good.”
She’s found a way, through all her adaptations and stressors, to become a stronger person and try to make a difference. With her art. Now, at 38, she wants to represent those who are disabled.
In the past she’s created 20-pound steel boots to represent how difficult it can be to walk or move when someone has a seemingly invisible health condition. Now her coffin performance protest will represent what can happen to people who will lose their coverage if the Affordable Care Act is repealed and replaced.
She admits seeing someone inside a coffin on the sidewalk can be jarring, but she said people need a wake up call and she’s not afraid of death because she’s come close to it so many times.
She’s hoping she won’t have to do this performance again and that it will get the attention of Gillibrand, Schumer and other politicians. In case she does, she already has another event set up at La MaMa on June 26 where she’ll show a video of today’s performance. She’s also working on planning a march for universal health care and to encourage people to support those with health conditions.
“Even if it does not affect you directly,” she said, “Even if you have no concept of the possibility of something happening to your body because you’re invincible. You know somebody. Everybody knows several people who have depression, or a chronic health condition, or something and how much this is going to affect their life.”
Update: Solimanto made it through the 24 hours in the heat and rain. Her performance resonated with some who tagged her in photos and videos on social media. In a Facebook live stream Solimanto said that Gillibrand’s office was great throughout the performance. She said Gillibrand’s office brought her water and said they support the performance and that Solimanto will have a meeting with a senior adviser, but Schumer’s office was silent throughout the demonstration.