Georgia is our sweet 19 year-old daughter, who at 10 years-old was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, or sometimes called Juvenile Diabetes. (Which is a misnomer since anyone at any age can develop it, even someone in their 60's.)
Diabetes is a terrible disease I wouldn't wish on anyone. Thanks to modern medicine people with T1D can live long lives. There are well known side effects that can develop, like nerve damage and kidney failure. There is another one that rarely gets mentioned in public: it can put a person and their family into medical debt in no time flat.
Diabetes is *very, very* expensive. Insulin is required to survive. There are also no generic insulins available in the US -- none. The amount of insulin a person needs is based on their own body chemistry. What is enough for one person may be too much or too little for someone else. Currently Georgia is on two kinds of insulin -- normal and routine for persons not on an insulin pump. Each kind can cost between $850-1,100 per month. Then there are all the supplies that go with it: blood sugar testing meter, testing strips, needles and syringes for doing injections. Doctor visits can be as often as monthly.
When diabetes control gets out of control there are complications. Those complications often require intensive medical care, and frequently, several nights in the hospital. Diabetic patients are sent directly to critical care units, or the ICU. While there their blood sugars are tested every hour, around the clock. Blood samples are drawn every 4 hours to monitor blood chemistry and watch for improvements; heart monitor pads are attached, and blood pressure and blood oxygenation is monitored continuously. Multiple IV infusion pumps are set up for insulin, fluids, electrolytes, bicarbonates, and whatever else a patient may require.
Last year, in 2016, our family experienced multiple changes in employment and/or insurance coverage. Each change brought a new deductible to be met, and sometimes the waiting period required by insurance providers before being allowed to enroll wherein we had no insurance coverage at all.
In 2016 Georgia had 4 inpatient hospital stays for diabetes and pneumonia -- inconveniently once with each insurance carrier change, and its corresponding $6000 deductible, and a brief ER observation stay to make sure complications weren't developing again. In February, she fell on ice and broke her both bones in her leg just above the ankle and required surgery to repair the break with plates and screws. For whatever reason (we still don't know why) the new insurance we had said she was ineligible and denied the $13,000 claim. All of it, and the following visit to ER for pain management after the nerve block wore off after surgery as well (it didn't stay "blocked" for nearly as long as they predicted).
Just last month she nearly died because of a rare strep infection in her blood that went septic, and also came in with extreme dehydration, was mildly hypothermic and was experience severe diabetic complications that could have killed her on its own. She spent 5 days in hospital, three of them unconscious, sedated and on a breathing tube. Four days ago we were in the ER having a wound related to the April stay checked out. While there she was told she had a bladder infection and UTI. I requested an abdominal ultrasound as a precaution, and that was ignored. Georgia was given a 7 day antibiotic regimen. As I write this I am sitting in a dark hospital room with my sweet girl again because after 4 days the pain in belly and back was getting worse. The bladder infection had actually moved into a kidney! A CT scan showed a possible abscess on the kidney as well. A stronger IV antibiotic has been started, and follow up CT scans are needed to monitor the spot on her kidney. Obviously we have no idea what these new medical bills will be, but "holy cow, that's a lot!" might be accurate.
As a legal adult, Georgia is legally responsible to pay for her medical expenses because they happened after her 18th birthday. As her parents, we are taking responsibility of paying for them. Here's the catch: unpaid bills get reported to collection agencies. These agencies send reports to credit bureaus. Her credit will be destroyed before she even gets a chance to go out into the world. Anyone over 40 knows that at 19 she's still just a kid.
And my kid's future is going to be damaged to the point of ruin before it gets to start. Any gift would be greatly appreciated to help clear these debts for her.
(Front page photo note: From May 2016, after orthopaedic surgery, walking with a cane and in a walking boot. She was in the walking boot from March-August.)
**Update :: Georgia's father spent 5 days in hospital with PE and DVT in August, 2017. He started a new job a week before this. His previous employer stated his health insurance would continue through the end of the month. We found out after he was discharged they had cancelled it immediately leaving the entire bill in our hands. Our existing medical bills are now around $60,000.