Happy endings really do happen sometimes

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I told you about Esperanza a few weeks ago. She was one of my CountyCare patients that for some reason was stuck in a nebulous spot. Her application was yet to be executed and her medical need was way too high for her to stay uninsured. I recap that entry here:

11:55am- A team member comes and grabs me- the tell-tale signs of “uh-oh” are etched on her face. Esperanza is a 36 year old female. She was healthy, she was all smiles when I met her over the summer and helped her enroll. She now carries the weight of her body gingerly, slumped in a chair. Her eyes are sunken, her hands shake. She wears a vibrant head scarf to hide the effects of the brain tumor she has been diagnosed with in the last few months. She applied for CountyCare, the adult medicaid program over the summer, back when we were telling people, “expect to hear back within 75 days.” At 125 days since application date, her application represents a gross anomaly in the application turn around and she wasn’t worried about it until her medical story changed. She was fine. She was okay. She thought she would be enrolled and things change. Life happens.

She breaks down in front of me and I have to bite my cheek so I don’t cry too. I have to will myself to be strong and clear-headed for her but it’s hard. She looks too much like my mother. She tells me how since her diagnosis she has been seeing doctors wherever possible, with whomever will work with her and her friend’s finances. She begs me to help her get insured, to find out what’s going on. I end up escalating her case to our senior management team. She’s one of us now, we need to care for her until the state does on paper.

She and I chat for 20 minutes, but those 20 minutes mean the world. I promise to take on her case myself and I have. As she walks away she says, “I come back here because you and your team, you all have honest faces. You can tell that you mean what you say,” and with that she seals her place in my heart and a constant nag in my gut that promises I won’t be forgetting her all day. I don’t. “Thank you for helping me. I don’t have anything to pay you with and I can’t promise you that I will ever be able to pay it back, but I know that God will.”

Esperanza’s story has changed so much in the last few weeks. Her vision has deteriorated so much that she cannot see basic text- she couldn’t help us locate a confirmation sheet for example. She still wears her vibrant headscarfs. She still keeps the spark of hope alive. She’s always polite, always kind, never pushing. She’s always thankful. She’s quiet but she’s ensured that none of us forget her.

A few days ago, we learned that her application, despite our proof, found itself inexplicably lost and had to be resubmitted Friday. My co-worker J.M. drove over to Esperanza’s home and did the application with her. Her hands shook so much and her vision was so out of focus that it took her several minutes between characters in order to finish her signature. We were calm and collected in front of her and in our exchanges over the phone, but we were furious. Murphy’s Law states: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and we genuinely wondered, why Esperanza. Why is the universe messing with her? We pushed and we shoved at DHS. We had to pick up the weight of her story and carry it for her so she could finally be heard. Senior leadership, staff members, doctors alike asked us daily how she was, asked us “when will she be enrolled?”

I’m happy to say that we learned today that Esperanza will be enrolled in CountyCare. She will be able to have the surgery and care she needs. Her doctor is buzzing with an energy to get this woman’s care moving and we’re just so floored it really happened. I called her and she said, “Is this for real? Are you pulling my leg?” Nope, Esperanza, this one’s all yours this time.

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