Urgent Medical Care for Paula Alder

This message is from Jessica Alder, Paula's daughter: Those of you who know my mom, Paula Alder, have seen her go from her energetic, active self--the woman who took an aerial dance class and bounced around on stage, doing improv--to hobbling about with a cane, barely able to walk half a block. I've watched her go through many stages during this past couple of years, from disbelief, confusion, fear, depression, and a sense of hopelessness to a state of vulnerability that has cracked her open.

For months, she was in so much pain, she could barely get up in the morning, and I couldn't believe this was her life. She went through acupuncture treatments, physical therapy, and a number of shots for the pain. Doctors were in disagreement about the problem, and my mom was getting worse and feeling scared. Everyone had a different idea about what she should do next, and nothing seemed to help. Finally, after numerous diagnostic tests, it now appears that the arthritis in her back has progressed, causing nerve pain that is unpredictable and hard to treat. She had a diagnostic test that pinpointed the nerve that was causing most of that pain, and a cortisone shot has relieved a lot of it--for the moment. She will certainly need more shots, and the last one cost over $700 out of pocket. Good, affordable health care is not a given.

Here's what my mom has to say: Jess, thank you for giving such a heartfelt description of my situation. To complicate matters, a bad fall about two years ago has caused deterioration of my left hip, which is now bone on bone. I will undergo hip replacement surgery in late June. The medical bills have been astounding.

Now, here's the hard part: I grew up in a working class family. In our family I got the idea that we "work hard and don't take handouts--it's a sign of weakness." So I went to college and grad school. I started a business. I managed after my divorce. I've worked hard. And it still doesn't seem to be hard enough. I feel a sense of shame about that. When my dear friend, Karen, suggested GoFundMe, I was so touched that she would think about helping me this way, and I was also horrified at the thought of asking people for money.

During the early days of extreme pain and hopelessness, I was forced to face the fact that I needed help. I couldn't do simple things without it. I was having to ask people for help to shop, change my sheets, carry in groceries, take out my garbage. I had to ask for help because I simply couldn't do these things, and I was overcome with the generosity and love from my friends, family, and neighbors, I was forced to ask. I came face to face with the voice that said "you don't really need that; you don't deserve that; no one will want to help; you will be a burden to people." I was wrong, of course. People are gracious and loving and helpful--glad to be asked, happy to contribute. I am deeply grateful and profoundly touched.

Yet, there is something about asking for money that brings up a whole new set of critical voices--but it all comes down to grappling with that voice that says it is shameful to not manage on my own. So this is a huge leap for me. With all the medical bills from both diagnostics and treatment, I am already in debt and I still need the surgery. Even with good insurance (I now have Obamacare), my out of pocket expenses are huge, and the last two years with a less than good insurance plan has left me with a backlog of bills. So I am here and I am asking for your help, with humility and, I hope, with grace. I'm learning that we are all in this together. Thank you, in advance.

Much love and appreciation,
Paula and Jessica
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Karen Menehan 
Santa Cruz, CA
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