It has been hard to watch as Melissa's pain has increased steadily over the years due to this deformity. However, like a majority of female patients, she nor our parents or even doctors she had growing up, knew she had this deformity. I remember as her sister noticing a slight dip in her chest, noticable when she was wearing a swimsuit, and etc. But she never complained about it growing up. For her, the pain became noticable in her 30s. She'd been dealing with neck pain since her 20s in college, then more and more back pain, especially after a bad car accident in 2007. Several tests at that time indicated a pectus deformity, but it was never discussed with her at the time, as the neck and back problems were the main focus. As years went on, more and more symptoms had her seeking regular medical treatment. Everything from asthma to anxiety was diagnosed to explain her crushing chest pain. But the palpitations she'd been secretly expeiencing for years were becoming more and more frequent. A smart cardiologist caught the root of the problem after scans showed her heart was significantly compressed by her ribcage, and as well as her lungs, which she was told were still child-size from not having ample room to grow. A wise OBGyn doc strongly advised my sister not to get pregnant with her heart and lungs so compressed as it would dangerously jeopardize her health and any baby's.
The surgery required to fix this deformity, now years of bone set in a deformed position, could only be done by experts at Mayo Hospital in Arizona. The surgery consisted of pulling her deformed ribcage out, and inserting three long thick metal bars that sat horizontally from side to side. The metal was cut and formed to her shape, to hold her ribcage open and off her heart.
As some of you may remember, the recovery was much harder on her than expected. Unlike most patients who go through this surgery, Melissa was placed in ICU immediately due to respiratory arrest multiple times. Her fibromyalgia had made pain levels even worse.
Just months into her recovery, problems arose and doctors ordered a second surgery, and Melissa and Nick found themselves back in Arizona just 8 months later. This time a bar had to be removed because it had wedged itself between two ribs, her sternum had to be cut off as the end of it was twisting itself under, and several ribs had to be broken from the sternum and cut shorter and reattached. Even harder recovery.
The goal from the beginning was to have the bars removed after 3-5 years of their initial placement. Kind of like the idea of teeth braces, once bone is formed or set in place for so long, it should stay in place on it's own. So it's now been 4yrs and Melissa is at the home stretch, we hope. This surgery will be to remove the two remaining bars and the metal plate. It's possible however that the surgeon could determine once inside to do additional bone cutting or rib removal, etc depending on how her ribcage has adjusted or shifted over the last 4yrs.
Financially, this means there are several unknowns- how long will she be in the hospital this time? How long before she'll be released to fly home? Will it be a few months, or another year to recover? Should they expect a large hospital bill again?
The medical debt of two surgeries plus all the pre-op tests and post-op treatments including three rounds of physical therapy in 4yrs, plus Melissa losing her job and finding it physically difficult to work since, has caused a tremendous financial weight on their shoulders, and now they face the costs of this next surgery and recovery. They need help in the out of pocket expenses and associated upfront costs of traveling out of state again for 1-2 wks depending, and their Obamacare insurance plan will only pay 70%, leaving them with the 30% plus a deductible of $2400, plus, the balance between Mayo Hospital's fees and the amounts the insurance pays (or "balance billing"; ie so if Mayo's xrays cost $200, but insurance's standard of pay for an xray is $100, then the $100 difference is billed to the patient, per Mayo's policy). This is all a bit out of their reach to make happen, so we are asking others step in to help them out.
I know that you join me in not wanting to see them stress out over this added financial stress, and we know Melissa can not keep putting this surgery off any longer. That is why I set up this page to help them raise the funds needed.
So what is needed?
Since we don't know what all this surgery will entail and how long she'll be hospitalized, we won't know for sure the total costs til after. What we do know is that they have a $2400 deductible to meet, the cost of flights to AZ, rental car for 1-2 wks, gas, food, as well as other equipment and needs for Melissa's recovery after the surgery. When adding up these costs, we estimate just shy of $5,000.
The procedure is set for the end of July, so the funds are needed in the next couple weeks. Any funds raised above the up-front costs will go towards paying their deductible and remaining total hospital bills and additional follow up care such as physical therapy.
Other ways you can help could include donating rewards points / buddy passes for flights, as well as reward points to cover the rental car. And of course, my sister and Nick would ask for your prayers most of all.
As the surgery is just around the corner, I ask that you consider donating to this need as soon as possible.
- Chris & Tree Peterson
- Amy Oelke
- Pamela Kubiak
- Mike Olson
Organizer and beneficiary
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