Supporting Patient Communities One Patient at a Time
Real World Health Care supports patient communities by spotlighting the organizations and programs that serve patients, their families and care teams. Our sponsor, the HealthWell Foundation, shares our mission and supports patients directly through financial grants that help them afford life-saving medications and treatments.
The assistance HealthWell provides isn’t abstract. It’s very real, as you’ll read below in two accounts of patients whose lives and families were upended by health issues. HealthWell was able to help them, and thousands of others every year, thanks to the generous support of individual and corporate donors. Their stories illustrate the importance of reaching out for help, no matter the circumstances.
Former Firefighter Now Fights for His Life
Jim P. is a 59-year-old retired firefighter from Newport News, Va., with hypercholesterolemia, symptoms of dementia and multiple other health issues.
“My daddy used to say that when you have your health, you have everything, and now I know how right he was,” Jim said. “I’ll never forget the day I nearly died in June 2009. I was coming across the parking lot to the fire station when my chest began to feel tight. By the time I got in the building, I was wheezing so hard I had to find a seat.”
Jim’s chief called for a medic, and he was rushed to the hospital. He spent the next week in the ICU and has been back in the ICU over 200 times since.
“As a firefighter, I had pulled families from burning houses, extricated victims from car wrecks and had to tell parents that their child didn’t make it,” he recalled. “Sadly, I’ve seen how things could turn upside down for people in the blink of an eye. But when it happened to me, I had a really hard time accepting it and the fact that I couldn’t do this alone.”
Jim kept his health problems a secret, even as they became financially devastating. He lost his house and had to make choices between eating and paying his insurance premium. For three-and-a-half years, he had no income and leaned on his children, his church and two dear friends for support.
When Jim – a lifelong non-smoker who has extensive lung damage from his days as a firefighter – was diagnosed with hypercholesterolemia, his doctor suggested that he call HealthWell for financial assistance so he could afford his medication.
“The woman who answered the phone at HealthWell was so kind and patient,” said Jim. “She broke everything down for me to make sure I understood. I was so happy when HealthWell said yes to my grant request.”
Today, Jim says his grandchildren give him a reason to keep fighting and offers words of encouragement to anyone going through a health crisis: “Be willing to reach out. Life can overwhelm you, especially when your health is failing. Take the time to befriend those in need and be prepared to help anyone. I am so grateful to HealthWell for all they do to help people like me.”
A Grieving Daughter Gives in Memory of Her Father
Nicole’s father, James, was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in early 2019 but kept it hidden from his family, even as he became increasingly worn down and fractured a couple of ribs – likely the result of the cancer weakening his bones.
In February 2020, Nicole and her family were made aware of her father’s diagnosis. Her sister started going to doctor appointments with him and in mid-March, they had convinced him to undergo treatment.
“He knew he might be able to withstand the financial burden [of the treatment] because of a grant he received from the HealthWell Foundation and because his family was there for him,” Nicole said.
Soon after agreeing to undergo treatment, James broke his sternum and several ribs when standing up, and he entered a nursing home for physical therapy. At the time, all nursing homes were on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning James’ family was unable to see him. Nicole’s sister fought to have his multiple myeloma medication delivered to her house so James could start treatment while in the nursing home – a process that took 10 agonizing days.
“On April 10, dad started the first of six planned treatments,” Nicole said. “The copay for this first, two-week round of medications came to nearly $2,700. It was the only round of treatment he was able to finish.”
Nicole’s father was released from the nursing home after a 21-day stay and died at home nine days later.
“Multiple myeloma slowly turns your bones to swiss cheese and, without treatment, you will start to fracture and break bones doing the simplest of things,” Nicole added. “This disease is also extremely painful and cruel. I wish someone told my dad these things back in 2019. Maybe he would still be here.”
Nicole said she believes the HealthWell grant her father received could have saved his life if he started treatments sooner. Her family’s experience prompted her and her sister to donate back to HealthWell in hopes that it saves someone else’s father.
You Can Make a Difference
This year has been so hard on millions of Americans struggling due to the pandemic. During this season of giving, we invite our readers to help HealthWell help those in need – people like Jim and James. To make your year-end gift to HealthWell so they assist even more patients and families in need, visit their website at www.HealthWellFoundation.org.