Colleen's Medical Bills and Illness

                                  Our Mother Colleen
One of the nicest women you could ever meet. She has worked full time since she was 12 years old. Always there with a kind word, a smile, advice and encouragment. She raised her two daughters who now run Chibi Cow and Voices in Our Heads to be independent strong women. Without her I could never have been strong enough to raise two special needs kids.

She was diagnosed at 42 with Emphysema and COPD. One of the hazards of managing a bar and restaraunt in Nevada. The doctors were concerned about the severity of her disease at such a young age. She never gave up though. She took full time care of our ailing grandmother for 15 years and never asked for a thing from anyone else to do it, even though it was at most times a very thankless job, as Grandama's Alzheimers made her pretty mean at times.

Mom continued working full time (and then some) while taking care of her mother, helping her daughters, and loving her rescue Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Sadly all of those years she did not have health insurance or even time to take for herself.

When our grandmother passed, mom looked in the mirror one day and realized that she was 15 years older, and dying. It was not easy for her. She stayed strong for us, because I am a marshmallow and need my mommy. She put on a brave face and did what she could medically while paying out of pocket.
She was then diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension, an enlarged heart, and right side congestive heart failure.
She bought a scooter and tried to stay positive AND stubborn.

For 3 years all of the doctors have said "Well, all we can do is make you comfortable" No hope, no words of kindness or encouragment. Just, "Sorry Colleen, it's not fair but you are going to die" She tried to prepare us for the inevitable. She made sure that we had support systems in place because of our emotional dependence on her.

Yet she still tried to live life to the fullest, and put aside her fear and frustration.She had been smoke free for 10 years. She had lost weight. She was eating ridiculously healthy. She got a treadmill. She refused to let us help her, because it was giving up. If she gave up she might as well die.

March 12th she was not feeling well and had a headache and some redness and blurriness in her eye. She tried to make an appointment with her family doctor. They refused to see her because of a screw up in the billing department, since she is cash pay. This woman pays 250 dollars a month on her medical bills for all of the tests and such and has never missed a payment. How many of us can say we have done that? She was denied treatment for a billing error and even had the reciepts to prove it. This went on for 2 days. Finally I talked her into going to urgent care and just making payments to them. She was diagnosed with shingles, given some painkillers and antivirul meds and sent home.

That night she began vomitting blood. Ambulance ride to the E.R. Stronger painkillers, and diagnosed with an esophagial tear. Left early in the morning and went to her appointment with the opthamologist. He said it did not look like shingles to him at all, but her syptoms matched so gave her antivirul eyedrops and scheduled an appointment for a few days later.

6 hours later I found her on the floor and her oxygen had fallen off. Her lips were the the color of deep bruises. After 2 calls to the paramedics, and her trying to yell at me, she finally agreed to go back to the Emergency Room.

She was in Congestive Heart Failure. She had suffered a small heart attack and her kidneys and liver were shutting down. I was told to start calling family members. She was admitted to ICU. They were not sure how long she would last.

Two days later we met with the Pulomonary Doctor for the hospital. She tells him she understands that her disease is progressive, and will never improve. He tells her that he has no clue who has been telling her this, but it is not true. He changes her meds. He orders her to wear a C-Pap machine at night for sleep apnea, and to keep working on her diet, and to STOP working at her job that is 7000 feet above sea level. (We live at 4500) Eventually he wants her at sea level, but for now if she works from home or goes on disablity she can stay where she is. She will not get worse. She can help her heart get strong. For the first time in at least 5 years someone gave her hope and didn't tell her she was going to die, SOON. The Cardiologist at the hopspital said much the same thing. She cried. She was not going to die. She had accepted it for so long she was just waiting for it to happen.

So the reason for this account is this: My mother, the most amazing woman I have ever met, has always worked for small bussinesses. She has no 401k. She has no retirement, and what savings she had helped pay for my grandmother's care for 15 years. She is not old enough to retire, and disabilty can take 2 years for approval even though her diagnosis are an automatic approval. With all of our family chipping in and helping out, with her friends offering what little they can, we are trying to move her from her ridiculously large 3 bedroom house to a small 2 bedroom duplex that she can afford. We still have bills to pay though. We have managed to figure out Medical insurance NOW, but the past bills, the dog food, the utilities, the little things.. they add up.

If you can help at all, or even just share PLEASE do. She finally has a shot at a life. She has not had that in almost 15 years. She has taken care of everyone around her, and now we are trying to take care of her, and let her see that she can live and enjoy her grandkids and new great granddaughter.  Is that too much to ask for the woman who has given of herself her entire life? I don't think so.

The picture represents something that means a lot to her, family. She is very ashamed of her looks and her oxygen mask, and such and refuses pictures. So instead I show you her youngest granddaughter, after I explained to the charge nurse that she is special needs with severe anxiety and has refused to go to school until she could see grandma was ok.

We won that round. Let's keep winning. :)

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Tiffany Burgoon 
Gardnerville, NV
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