To Carla Underhill, it felt like she was just having a little trouble getting a full breath of air. She had been tired all day and was too weak to walk, so she decided to spend the rest of it in bed. She had been to Health Services of North Texas’ Denton office and seen Dr. Terrence Moore, now retired, earlier in the day. His diagnosis was urgent: “You need to go to the hospital.”
“I was feeling fine other than I can’t get a little bit of air,” says Carla, a 61-year-old Texan who has lived in Denton for nearly all her life. “I took my blood pressure and it was a little low, and it got a little lower all through the night. I got on the internet and looked it up…and this one answer came back from some hospital in another state and they said, ‘you need to call an ambulance.’”
Carla wondered if that was really necessary. She had no insurance, and she was afraid of taking the extra cost of calling an ambulance to take her to the emergency room. She put it off until she called a healthcare hotline, and they said the same thing: she needed to go to the hospital. Her husband was leaving to deliver a rug, so she decided to ride in with him just in case.
At this point, Carla’s heart rate was in the low 40s, and fluctuating wildly.
Eventually, Carla and her husband decided to drive to the nearest hospital and just sit in the parking lot, watching for any more changes. It wasn’t until Carla was at her most exhausted that they finally checked into the hospital. The moment Carla explained her symptoms, she was immediately told to sit down and not to move. The nurse was aghast when Carla said her heart rate was at 39. “You’re a walking dead person,” she said. “Why didn’t you come in sooner?”
“Because,” Carla replied, “I have no insurance.”
Her worries about finances had been going on long before she reached that point. Because of Carla’s multiple health issues – lupus, scleroderma, fibromyalgia, and spinal stenosis, the latter of which she’s received seven back surgeries for – her insurance had renewed with a $2000 premium and a $7000 deductible. With her husband’s developing dementia, which made it difficult for him to work, Carla was forced to drop her insurance company. Money had always been tight, but now with no insurance, it would be even tighter, and at a time when they needed quality healthcare more than ever.
According to the cardiologist that saw her, Carla had a complete heart block. If she hadn’t gone to the hospital when she did, she would not have lived through to the morning.
Carla now sees Dr. Siegel, the Medical Director for Health Services of North Texas. “He’s almost like a family member in that sort of way,” she says. “Dr. Siegel will sit there in that office as long as you need to…. One time he was in there for an hour and a half with me. I was having a little difficulty at the time, and he was trying to figure the problem, but he was not trying to push me out.”
Carla isn’t the only one in her family who gets their care from Health Services of North Texas, Carla’s daughter now sees Dr. Siegel, as well as Carla’s husband, who has dementia. When she was told that they couldn’t take any new patients, Carla says that Dr. Siegel went up to the front desk and said “I will take them. I will make room.”
Health Services of North Texas has been able to provide Carla with affordable care that she can access, even without insurance. Carla knows that for some of her illnesses, she needs to go specialists outside of our offices, but when it comes to everything else, she insists on seeing Dr. Siegel.
“I’ve had doctors where, by the time I thought of the question I wanted to ask them, they were already out the door. I don’t want doctors like that, I want doctors that care enough. Dr. Siegel is just a caring person who cares about what he’s doing.”
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