Ayumi P

For a 19-year-old college student, I am awfully opinionated about the importance of having health insurance.  I think everyone should have some amount of health insurance.  There is no telling when a crisis will strike, and when one will be left owing a hospital thousands of dollars.

In 2011, I returned home from a walk when I learned my mother had suffered a catastrophic heart attack.  Five of her arteries were blocked.  The doctors told us to say our goodbyes just in case, as she went under to have open heart surgery for a quintuple bypass.  The surgeons told us she went into cardiac arrest three times on the table, but she kept coming back to us.  That was the worst week of my life, but my family and I got through it and it was all worth it when my mom’s breathing tube was removed and she could tell us she loved us.

All was not well, however.  The cost of an emergency is ridiculously high.  The Ambulance ride to the hospital alone would set us back a quarter of a year, not to mention the $200,000 heart surgery.  We had the bare minimum in terms of insurance, and my mom was drowning in debt.  Luckily, thanks to very kind people, a lot of the costs were taken from our shoulders.

Fast forward a few years, and my mom was now on the “gold” plan of her health insurance.  This was one of the best decisions she could make, because in 2014 she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Renal Disease.  My father passed away in 2008, leaving my mom with six children to raise alone.  The stress of being a single mother and carrying the weight of our worlds on her shoulders had made her kidneys weak.  The doctors told us her best option would be a kidney transplant.  This is another extremely expensive operation that would take years of planning.  We talked with my mother’s insurance provider and they promised to pay for the transplant in full.

The news that her surgery was cleared was amazing! Now we just needed to find a donor.  My older siblings all offered, but for one reason or another, were not suitable candidates.  I was finally old enough to legally donate, so I decided to undergo the donor candidacy process.  I was physically a perfect match.  I am in good health and have the right blood type and immunity to give her an organ.  But when my donor team saw my family history of cancer, we decided to do genetic testing to see if I had any sort of predisposition to develop cancer.  They found I carried a gene variant on the gene Cadherin-1, referred to as CDH1.  Cadherin-1 is a gene that codes for a type of protein which deals with tumor suppression and cell adhesion.  The cancers associated with it are the cancers that were common in my family. It is not a guarantee that I will ever develop cancer, but I am potentially more likely to develop it compared to someone who does not have the gene.  Because of this genetic predisposition, my doctors thought it best that I didn’t donate.

Everything turned out great, as my mom received a kidney from a deceased donor this past summer.  She had spent two years on the kidney transplant waiting list, and was lucky enough to receive a kidney that was a zero-mismatch for her.  A zero-mismatch donor is the best an organ receiver can hope for, as they offer the most minimal risk of organ rejection and the greatest chance of long-term health.  She accepted the new kidney and is well on her way to a full recovery.  I have been learning more about my gene variant and have decided to be proactive about it.  I will get biannual checkups to be certain I am not developing any sort of malignant tumors, and in the case that I do, I can catch the cancer early.  This is possible because I have health insurance to pay for the appointments and tests.  Without it, I would be stuck shouldering the cost of tests that are more expensive yearly than my college tuition.

Because of my family’s health insurance, we were able to survive many health scares and emergencies.  It helps with the weight of medical bills, and has allowed my mom to recover from her surgeries with more peace of mind.  She can look to the future and know that if anything does happen again, we can rest assured that we will not drown in the face of medical expenses.

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