On February 6, my mom (Kelly) went to urgent care in Milwaukee with shortness of breath. She was immediately admitted to the hospital where it was discovered that she was suffering from congestive heart failure and atrial tachycardia. Kelly (or Mama K, as many of you know her) spent 4 nights and 5 days in the hospital. While we were there, we found out the extent of her heart failure. A normal heart has an ejection fraction of 55-60%. My mom's EF was around 10-15%.
Unfortunately, things kept rolling downhill from there. In order for her to be discharged from the hospital, Kelly was informed that she must wear something called a LifeVest (a wearable, external defibrillator) because her risk of sudden cardiac death was so high. One week into wearing the LifeVest, she developed a severe allergic reaction all over her back where the paddles were in contact with her skin. This is due to a previously undiagnosed nickel allergy. This prevented her from wearing the vest at all.
As you may know, my mom works at Whole Foods Market in the Whole Body department. She is a well-loved member of the staff and like a second mom to many of the employees there. She is face-to-face with the public in her job on a daily basis and works full-time in order to cover all of her expenses. Kelly was out of work for approximately two weeks due to the hospitalization, for which she has been billed $7,000.
We were also informed that Kelly would need an upgraded pacemaker. This is a basic surgery that involves removing her current pacemaker and re-installing a new one that is paired with a defibrillator. Unfortunately, it was right around the time that COVID-19 started spreading rapidly throughout the United States, and Columbia-St. Mary's Hospital stopped all non-emergency surgeries at the beginning of March.
On top of her surgery being postponed, my mom was also told that she should not be at work due to her high risk (as she is in face-to-face contact with the general public for hours at a time). The exact words her doctor said to me were, "If your mom contracts coronavirus, her chance of survival would be 0% due to her decreased heart function."
After consulting with the HR department at Whole Foods and being informed that she should take short-term disability leave to stay safe, my mom began sheltering in place on March 17. Since that time, Kelly has only left the house to walk her precious dog Marley (and even then with a mask and disposable gloves). All the while, waiting patiently for Sedgwick, the short-term disability insurance company, to approve her 60% paid short-term disability.
However, on Wednesday, April 22, we received the news that her short-term disability request had been denied. Why, you ask? The denial letter stated:
"Although directed by your medical provider to self-quarantine or remain in self-isolation, that alone would not be sufficient to support disability. The information provided to us has failed to demonstrate a need for disability and does not meet the definition of a disability."
When she contacted Sedgwick, their representative informed her of the following information: Whole Foods Market had made the decision that the only people for whom COVID-19-related short-term disability benefits would be approved were those who were either a) diagnosed with COVID-19 or b) lived in a household where a member had been diagnosed with COVID-19.
What this means for my mother is that she has lost out on nearly $5,000 of income. She has not received a full paycheck since mid-March and has been subsisting on groceries delivered by one of her generous co-workers. She went in for her pacemaker surgery today (Friday, April 24) and honestly, we need your help. This surgery means that she will be out of work for another few weeks while she recovers. We are asking for $15,000 to cover the $5,000 of lost income, $7,000 of hospital bills that already exist, and an additional $3,000 to cover any additional lost income following the surgery.
Many of you know that my mom would never ask for help voluntarily. She fought with me about creating this, but ultimately, since I am unemployed and cannot help her myself, I am turning to those of you out there who can spare something. Even the smallest amount helps.