In September 2015, my sister and her husband announced they were pregnant with their first child. I was so excited to become an Aunt for the very first time. I wondered if the baby would be a boy or a girl, what he or she would look like and what they would name the child. Our entire family was thrilled and so looking forward to his or her arrival. Never once did a bad or negative thought cross my mind. My sister is a very health conscious person. She continued to eat healthy and exercise regularly during her first trimester. She did everything possible to care for herself and her unborn baby.
When my sister was 20 weeks pregnant she went to visit her doctor for a routine checkup and to find out the gender of their unborn child. Our family was so excited that my mom, stepdad and I all escorted my sister to her appointment. The doctor told us all that they were having a boy. I was so excited! It would be my first nephew. During the ultrasound, I was watching the doctor and noticed he was spending a very long time reviewing pictures of the baby’s heart. Then he gave us some frightening news. The doctor detected an abnormality with the baby’s heart. He referred my sister to a heart specialist at Akron Children’s hospital. An echo cardiogram was scheduled. After the first visit with the specialist, they were told their baby had second degree heart block. They would have to come back for an echocardiogram every two weeks. My sister and her husband were told that their baby may have to have surgery as soon as he was born and most likely would not be able to participate in sports as a child. The scariest thing of all was when the doctor told them there was the possibility she could miscarry.
My sister continued to do everything the doctors told her to do. She stopped working, put herself on bed rest and did everything she could for the health of her baby. She went to her appointments every two weeks and there was no change in his condition.
The doctor gave her a goal of carrying the baby until 38 weeks. He told her “Just get to 38 weeks and we will be in good shape.” I never wanted time to go by so fast. Well, we made it all the way to her due date. May 3, 2016. It was time. We all met at the hospital. I wanted to be with my sister so my mom and I stayed in the delivery room and after 20 hours of labor, Benjamin was born. A team of doctors, I would say at least 6 of them were standing by waiting to rush him away. He had to spend a few days in the Neonatal Intensive care unit for monitoring. On his last day in the hospital, the doctor examining him gave us the most amazing news. “His heart was perfectly normal,” the doctor said. He could go home, no surgery and no restrictions. We all hugged, celebrated, and I thanked God for my answered prayers.
Being only sixteen at the time, I never really thought about the financial significance of this whole experience. I never worried about doctor bills, my parents took care of all of that kind of stuff, then I overhead my family talking about the medical bills. Each of the echocardiogram visits cost roughly $2,000 each. The total doctors & hospital bills came to just over $50,000.
There were bills for the doctor, bills for the anesthesiologist, and bills for the hospital. There were bills for my sister and more bills for Benjamin. They just kept coming. I was curious, so I asked my parents how health insurance works and who would pay all of these bills.
My mom explained that health insurance is a service you pay for but hope you will never need. It’s there for the unpredictable, unexpected and uncontrollable problems that come up in people’s lives. She said, someone might be healthy now, but a sudden or serious illness such as cancer, diabetes, appendicitis or a traumatic event like a car crash can leave you with overwhelming medical bills. The inability to pay high medical bills, can cause people to file for bankruptcy, and can ruin ones credit history.
I learned that health insurance can cover many situations such as outpatient care which is the kind you get without being admitted to a hospital. It covers when you have to go to the emergency room. It covers treatment in the hospital when you are admitted for any length of time. It covered my sister before and after her baby was born. It can cover mental health and substance use disorders and services. It can cover dental and vision and prescription drugs, physical therapy, lab tests, vaccines and pediatric care for my nephew as he continues to grow healthy.
This experience has made me consider pediatric nursing as a career and I can now say that I truly understand the importance of insurance.
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