Insurance, a very important and crucial part of living, yet very overlooked by many teenagers entering adulthood, can be easily forgotten as an insignificant part of life. Unless a specific event occurs, in which insurance is crucial, insurance seems like an unneeded payment which magically whisks away money from your bank account every month. What many people, specifically those just entering the brink of adulthood, don’t understand is exactly how beneficial insurance truly is when in the midst of a crisis, which is exactly what my family had to go through.
My father, born with a bicuspid aortic valve instead of a tricuspid aortic valve, knew from a young age that his heart worked differently than others. This didn’t prevent him from partaking in any activities that young boys consider “fun” though. Apart from the said ‘insignificant’ leakage from his heart valves, he was just like any other boy.
As he grew up, he became a volunteer firefighter until eventually becoming a career firefighter working for Penn Township. He was very healthy and exercised every day as part of his job requirements. He had no need to worry about the news he had received when he was a little kid because everything in his body was functioning normally as far as he was concerned. That was, until March of 2012. At age 43, my dad went to our local hospital to be xrayed to check his heart valves. He had a feeling that something wasn’t right but he couldn’t quite figure out what. The results came back normal and the local doctor assured my dad that nothing was wrong and that he could continue with his normal, daily activities. But, time passed and he could tell that something was off and he wanted a second opinion. So, my dad decided to travel an hour to Hershey Medical Center to have an expert look at his heart more closely. The surgeon deemed his condition very serious and, if not fixed right away, life threatening. Within two weeks of the first visit, my dad’s scheduled operation date arrived. We couldn’t believe that the first doctors could miss something as serious as his problem!
With every heartbeat, his bicuspid valve leaked a little because the flaps didn’t fit together properly. To fix this problem, my dad needed an artificial aortic heart valve put in. He could either have a pig’s valve or a mechanical one made of titanium put in. The pig’s valve would work just like a human one, but would need changed after 15 years and my dad would need a second heart surgery. So, the better option seemed to be the titanium valve. The only problem is that since it was mechanical, my dad would need to take blood thinners everyday for the rest of his life. The latter was still a better option than another surgery so, he decided to choose the titanium valve.
Thankfully, and with a ton of appreciation to the Hershey surgeons, nurses, and staff, my dad’s open heart surgery was successful. Then, the easiest thing to overlook and yet the most dreaded thing came, the bill. My mom was sticker shocked at the amount of money it had taken to complete one surgery. What was even more worrying was the fact that my dad was our main source of income, working two jobs, but he was unable to work for 8 months after his surgery was completed. Although my mom was more than capable of going back to work full time, it was reassuring and comforting to have her pick me and my brother up after school everyday. Especially, because our school district didn’t provide busing at that point in time.
Our family didn’t know exactly what would happen but, we were going to make it work somehow. Then, like an angel sent down from above, our insurance company at the time sent us a letter with the amount they were contributing. In the end, for all of the visits to Hershey Medical Center, the actual surgery, and the recovery time in the hospital, our family only had to pay $15.00 for the initial doctor’s appointment. Knowing what the actual bill cost, this was a miracle for our family at the time.
This experience forced me to think about trivial matters that many teenagers are not introduced to. I never realized before this point how important insurance truly was to everybody and it has changed my outlook on life for the better.
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