With a struggling economy and many people across the United States having a difficult time maintaining the lifestyle to which they are accustomed, it is easy to understand how a major illness or hospitalization can devastate a family budget.
With that in mind, I knew that my full-time student budget was about to take a nosedive when I began to have health problems during the Spring 2012 semester. What could I do?
I only needed 32 more credit hours to complete my degree, so I convinced myself that my health problems would abstain until I could graduate and secure the proverbial dream job that would provide me with health care insurance or the funds with which to purchase insurance.
I had hoped to attend classes during the summer semester; however, an opportunity to interview for an internship was presented to me. Although the job was in Duncan, I was happy to accept the position. With the summer employment, I would be working, earning money with which to pay the bills and learning another aspect of journalism.
One day, only the second week into my job, something began to feel terribly wrong. I began to have stabbing pain in my chest and back. I thought I was having a heart attack based on what I had always been told and what I had witnessed my mother experience. I knew without a doubt that I should go to the hospital immediately.
My sister drove me to the emergency room and I was rushed into an examination room. Everything was so surreal. I felt like I was caught in a dream that I could not awaken from as half a dozen nurses and technicians began hooking me up to a multitude of wires and monitors.
After a short time that seemed like forever, a doctor came in and said he had good news. I had not had a heart attack. I was overjoyed and relieved; however, almost immediately, the relief was soon overwritten with concern for how I would afford that wonderful news — and there was still more news.
The doctor said that my gallbladder had caused the pain, it was a serious condition and that I would need surgery to remove it soon.
Obviously thankful that I had not had a heart attack, I was worried about how I was going to pay the bill up to this point, not to mention any additional bills. I told the doctor that I had no way to pay for surgery because I was a full-time student, I was on my own, I had no insurance, I had no money and I was barely getting by as it was.
The doctor told me that he would give me the name and number of a surgeon that would see me anyway. I made the appointment for the next week.
After the surgeon reviewed my chart and examined me, he confirmed the emergency room doctor’s diagnosis and agreed that the gallbladder must come out soon. Again, I explained my financial situation and he directed me to the admitting department to speak with a financial counselor about financial assistance.
At this point, I met Lois Gaines, a financial counselor/scheduler at Comanche County Memorial Hospital. I could tell that she genuinely cared about my situation and she wanted to do whatever she could to help me.
Gaines explained how the process worked, and gave me an application and a check sheet of documentation she needed from me to verify that I was a person who was in need of financial assistance for medical expenses associated with my gallbladder illness.
I completed the application and provided the documentation, and within three weeks, I was told that I qualified for the Charity Program and that I could proceed to schedule a time for my surgery.
I had my surgery on Aug. 17.
My gallbladder was in such bad shape that, instead of releasing me to go home on the same day as originally hoped, my surgeon kept me in the hospital over night. I stayed home for one week before returning to class.
I am extremely thankful to Comanche County Memorial Hospital and everyone there who took such good care of me. I am also thankful to Lois Gaines who was such a pleasant surprise with her caring smile and understanding heart.
It is almost a certainty that other Cameron students are having or will have difficult times ahead of them as they complete their degrees, and to them I say to take heart, because they are on a campus and in a community of people who genuinely care.