Community rallies around nurse recovering from surgery

Posted at 6:01 PM, Sep 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-21 21:01:24-04

The real impact of COVID-19 has not just been on one's physical health, but it has also been devastating on those who have lost their jobs, and with that, their health insurance. The lack of health insurance is creating a more significant burden for those who get sick and now have no way to afford medical treatment. One Valley family is now rallying around their mother, after emergency surgery with no insurance has left her in a financial bind.

Sheila Hill had actually retired from nursing a few years ago, after battling cancer, but the mother had no choice but to return to work after her husband lost his job, due to his company down-sizing during the pandemic.

"It's been very difficult. My husband got laid off in April. We lost our insurance, so I had to go back to work," said Hill.

Hill got a job working as a nurse at a Valley surgery center, where she tests patients for COVID-19 every day. Just as she was settling into her new role, back at work, Hill said she started to feel sick. From nausea to chest pains, Hill initially thought she had suffered food poisoning, but quickly learned she needed to have her gall bladder removed right away.

"My insurance hadn't kicked in yet, so I thought, I'll just baby it. This is a typical nurse thing. I'll baby it long until my insurance kicks in," said Hill, but her body had other plans. A few days later, she found herself in excruciating pain and ended up in an emergency room.

"My pancreas was infected, my gall bladder was enlarged and inflamed. I had multiple gall stones, so they did emergency surgery that day," said Hill.

Now healing after the surgery, Hill was subject to another sick feeling after the hospital bill arrived. The cost of her emergency surgery totaled about $74,000. The hospital is working with the family to help bring down some of the costs, but even with that, Hill said the first payment will be due within 30 days.

"We've gone through our 401K to survive, any savings that we've had is gone," said Hill.

The payments of about $2,500 a month would leave the couple with practically nothing to live on.

"I've been told by people, you know, just pay $50 a month, ignore the bill, but I have always paid all my bills my entire life. It's a bill that I owe. I got the operation, I believe that the hospitals deserve to paid," said the nurse.

Watching their parents going through this has been tough for Hill's children.

"You don't want to see your parents in their 60's suffering after they've provided a life for you for so long," said Kara Hurwitz, Hill's daughter.

Her children have tried to help them financially and said they would welcome their parents into their homes to live with them if it came down to that, but they have also started a community fundraiser to help their mom pay her hospital bills. It's a bittersweet call to action for Hill.

"I don't like begging for help. I have never been one to. This is embarrassing for me to have to ask for help, but this has put all of our plans for retirement on hold. We don't know how long we're going to have to work," said Hill.

She added that she knew there may be others out there, who had it much worse than her, so she was grateful for the show of support from the community.

The fundraiser has helped raise more than $5,000 so far. Seeing even strangers digging into their pockets to shell out a few bucks to help was overwhelming for the Hill family, giving them hope during this tough time.

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