Julia's Heart Surgery Support Fund

Hi. My name is Julia, and I am going into open heart surgery on Monday September 25, 2017.

A week ago, everything was “normal”. I was back to work after a nasty head cold, planning a visit from my father-in-law in mid-October, and readying my daughter for a Tae Kwon Do tournament on the 30th. But that changed instantly on Monday 9/18 when my heart went into atrial fibrillation.

This was the first time I had experienced a-fib personally so I didn’t recognize it right away. My heart atria and ventricles weren’t communicating with each other so my pulse rate ranged between 120 and 160 beats per minute for close to five hours before the Emergency Room team was finally able to reset it to a normal rhythm. I imagine this is what marathoners feel like when they cross the finish line – except I hadn’t gone anywhere.

They sent me for a cardiac echo as a follow-up, and the moment the technician saw the image, I knew something major was wrong with my heart. Her whole demeanor changed. She contacted the on-call cardiologist immediately who told me I had a tumor in the left atrium of my heart.

My world stopped. I had a tumor. In my heart.

The doctor assured me that it was 99% likely to be benign, but that it could break off pieces into my bloodstream and cause an embolism or stroke so it had to come out very soon.

I cried for awhile and then started gathering my thoughts to plan for an upcoming surgery. I talked with my mom and my husband – discussing how we were going to get everything covered – including Anna’s tournament on the 30th. My husband David will take her. I cried again because I’m not going to be there myself to see her compete.

I contacted my co-workers and scrambled to get notes together for them to cover a job I’ve done for nearly eight years. I didn’t have a surgery date initially, but I got that on Thursday afternoon - it was going to be Monday. I cried some more because that wasn’t enough time to plan like I do. I am a planner, and I’m proud of the work I do. It’s just not enough time.

I notified additional family and friends by Facebook and co-workers by e-mail – neither one of which I really wanted to do. There were so many people I wanted to talk to – NEEDED to talk to – I just didn’t have time. Everything was on fast-forward.

I sit here now, less than 36 hours from surgery, and most of my severe anxieties are at a peace. I made as many notes for my co-workers as I could. They’re awesome people; they’ll get through it. I set up scheduled payments for bills that are due at the beginning of the month so David doesn’t have to worry about paying them on time. I set up a claim on my father-in-law’s travel insurance so he can get his money back for the trip he can’t take up here right now. And I registered Anna for the tournament so I didn’t change my mind and not let her go just because I couldn’t be there. (I’m ashamed that crossed my mind, but it did.)

But the biggest anxiety remains – how on earth am I going to pay for this?

I have a good job, but I also have a lot of bills – credit card debt that started building again after my back surgery three years ago, student loan debt, Tae Kwon Do fees (well worth it, but not cheap), rent, health and life insurance, car maintenance (we put $400 into our vehicle this week too - in the middle of all this - because the starter decided this was the week to flake out on us and someone decided they needed our back window more than we did.) Our small ‘savings’ basically disappeared in an instant on the van alone.

The list goes on. We’re not destitute, but each paycheck is a struggle. We have a roof over our heads. We have food on the table. Anna has what she needs including Tae Kwon Do classes which has worked wonders for her anxiety, self-esteem, and self-defense. But there is very little ‘extra’ in any given check. Till I get groceries, gas, and maybe a breakfast before work here or there, each check is gone, and I’m watching the bank account like a hawk to be sure we don’t overdraft until the next one arrives.

I will get my paycheck during my leave. I’m very grateful for that. My employer provides an excellent Short Term Disability program. The regular bills will be paid for the next 6-8 weeks. But the E.R. bill, the Cardiac Echo bill, the TEE (Esophogial-Echo) bill, and of course the surgery and my 4-6 days in the hospital – that’s all coming my way.

I do have health insurance through work. I’m also very, very grateful for that because it’s making it possible for me to pay only my annual out-of-pocket maximum on what is going to be a massive overall cost to remove this tumor from my heart.

But in our family’s finances, there is no real difference between owing $5,200 (my OOP max), owing $52,000, or owing $520,000. They’re all equally impossible.

So today, I ask for your support in helping our family pay our part of this surgery. If this was an elective surgery – or if I had received some warning; some time to try to save - I wouldn’t be asking for help. It pains me to do so even now because I know many of you are struggling day to day as we are. And I know many others who are struggling MORE than we are, but I’m left with no choice. We need help, and the anxiety of figuring out how to pay this - during my recovery time no less – is overwhelming and frightening.  And honestly, I have enough of that with someone cutting into my heart.

If you can donate, we greatly appreciate it. Even if it’s $2, $5, or $10 – it will all help.

And even if you can’t donate, please share this link. My family – and my heart – thank you.

My David will try to post updates here as his time allows, but of course his priorities are going to be keeping some normalcy for Anna and helping care for me once I’m released.

Thank you. Blessings and peace to you all.


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Julia Harris Ozab 
Eugene, OR
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