First up... The Freemans. They were featured on a recent episode of The Doctor's. Their blog (seems to be mostly authored by Dad) is quite popular among preemie blogs. Kayleigh was born 3 months early in June of 2008. The show featured their story due to the financial impact that prematurity has played in their lives. They were doubly hit when the economy crashed and they were on the verge of losing their home. Many of us have been in that situation. I've been very open about our financial hardships, beginning with the NICU bill that was not covered by insurance and continuing for the past 10 1/2 years of medical bills due to on going care. Their story is NOT unique.
So why the buzz in the preemie world? Well, they used their blog to solicit donations all the while never disclosing how the money was being used. Some have commented that they never sent thank you's after they've received said donations. I am not one of those who donated so I don't feel qualified to comment on any of the above.
What I do know is that many of us are one more procedure away from being completely broke. Unlike decisions we make on our own medical care, as parents we cannot chose to withhold a medicine or a procedure because we cannot afford it. They are our children and we do everything we can to improve their quality of life.
I think the frustration in the preemie world over this family is that "their story" is "our story" too. Many of "us" need help but no one is beating down the door and tossing cash our way. Some people felt that the family was still spending money on extras (getting nails done, etc) and they shouldn't be doing so since they were receiving donations. (Since I don't know how those extras were paid for I also won't be commenting on it)
Some states have wonderful resources such as SSI and medicaid. But what about those who live in states where income is used to determine if you qualify? What about those who live in states without waivers? What about all of the bills incurred after the NICU? Co pays? Medicines? Living on one salary because your preemie cannot be in day care? It all adds up.
All in all the show did a fairly good job of showing what life is can be like for people without insurance (or under insured) when a crisis hits.
At one point Dr. Sears talked about a late night encounter he had with a father in the NICU. The father was questioning whether or not it was all worth it.
"I know as doctors and pediatricians we try to do everything we can do for these little babies but sometimes we forget what happens outside of the hospital, what the cost can be for the whole family. This reminds me of a story. I was spending the night in the neonatal intensive care unit with a family a few years ago and very similar situation as your guys (pointing to the Freeman's). The baby born 3 months premature, barely over a pound and you know, the child was only a few weeks old and had all of these procedures and surgeries. The dad came in in the middle of the night and we were sitting there together and the dad just kind of broke down and he said, "You know, is this going to be worth it? You know I don't know if we can pay for all of this." and seeing their little baby go through all of these things and not knowing and probably even doubting if there is even going to be a good end to all of this. It's just really tough."
At that point I held my breath. He seemed choked up, like he really wanted to say what was on his mind. But it ended there and I let out a sigh. Although it wasn't the right time for that kind of discussion (being that it was a show on insurance), I really wanted to hear what was on Dr. Sears' mind.
As for Kayleigh... she passed away on May 11th, having never left the NICU. You can read her blog here... http://kayleighannefreeman.blogspot.com/
Next up (in a few days) will be a post about the People Magazine article on the 6 micropreemies. Please hold the comments until then as I'm sure you all will have a lot to say once you hear what I have to say.