“I knew I needed to do something, but I didn’t have anywhere to go once I lost my insurance,” Carol started. Carol, 55, has been employed from the age of 16 and had always received benefits through her employer. She explained how fortunate she’d been to have always had a job and access to care, but because of the economic downturn, her employer had no choice but to make budget cuts. As is often the case, benefits were part of the cut.
“I’m chronically ill, although I feel healthy. I’ve had a heart murmur for about 20 years now, and I’m diabetic,” Carol explained. “So, I need to see a doctor regularly for wellness checks.” After she lost her insurance, she was trying to maintain her health on her own and buying insulin for $24 a bottle from Wal-Mart.
Carol is employed as a cook by White Plains Children’s Center, which is a mission of White Plains United Methodist Church. “We do good work. The people there are good,” she exclaimed when asked about her job and how she came to Alliance. When she lost her insurance, someone at the church recommended that she reach out to Alliance Medical Ministry. After visiting the ACC with a severe headache from her diabetic condition, she became a patient. Carol’s former internist explained her medical history to her new doctor at Alliance, Dr. Lewis, who referred her to cardiologist, Dr. Paar.
Although Carol was asymptomatic, Dr. Paar monitored her heart closely. In November of 2011, she experienced what seemed like a panic attack. She could hardly breathe. She tried lying down, sitting up, getting some fresh air, but nothing seemed to help. She didn’t attribute the shortness of breath to a heart problem, but when she explained the instance to Dr. Paar, he told her “This is the beginning.” She had gone into aortic stenosis. It was time for her to have heart surgery.
“Bottom line, Alliance has just been a blessing. It came at a perfect time for me. Everything happens for a reason!” Carol said. Had she not had access to care, she may not have realized that her heart was the cause of her sudden onset symptoms, or that they were anything more than a panic attack. “I’ve come out of this better off. Alliance referred me to Dr. Hunter at WakeMed for my heart surgery and since then I’ve been seeing Dr. Lewis once every three months. The first breath of air I took in the ICU after my surgery was indescribable. I feel so much better.”
Through the Patient Assistance Program, Carol has received over $20,000 in insulin thus far. “It’s wonderful!” she said of the program. “I’ll take care of myself. I want to be healthy. I just need to be able to do the things I need to do and have the things I need to take care of myself. I’ll listen to my doctors!” At $24 a bottle, it’s understandable the challenges she faced. “I’m so grateful.”