Family's health scare and medical bills on overseas vacation

By member Mya Volkman, Menasha, Wis.    

From the January 2019 issue of Heartfelt Magazine.

My husband, Karl, and I adopted both of our sons as infants from Bogotá, Colombia. As the years passed we often dreamed about the day we would take them to revisit their home country. In August 2017 we were blessed to finally take our boys—then 15 and 11—on this monumental trip. We were so excited.

Four days into our vacation we were eating lunch at an outdoor café. As we watched the hustle and bustle of the surrounding market, I was shocked to see Karl pass out and fall onto the table. I screamed for help, not really knowing what else to do. Panic set in as I struggled to ask for assistance due to the language barrier.

Thinking he was choking, a few strangers came over and tried administering abdominal thrusts, but we had finished eating a while ago and I knew food wasn’t the problem. Karl had always been healthy and I had no reason to think he was having a heart attack, but something told me that’s what the problem was. I shouted, “No, no!” and tapped my chest to the people around us, trying to indicate that I thought something was wrong with his heart.

Within minutes a gentleman named Arturo emerged from the crowd and started performing chest compressions. In shock, I knelt beside Karl and tried to grapple with what was happening.

Time seemed to stop as reality set in. Arturo continued CPR even as he told me it wasn’t working.

It was then that a woman named Nicole knelt beside me and gently whispered comforting words to my husband. Karl’s eyes flew open and Nicole asked if I believed in God. I told her I did and she suggested we pray over Karl. God, please be with us, I prayed silently and desperately.

Because the streets were closed off to cars for the Sunday market activities, the ambulance was unable to reach us. However, by God’s grace, two hospital employees—aided by four Good Samaritans—arrived on foot to carry Karl to an emergency room two blocks away.

After three days in the Intensive Care Unit, two stents and three more days in a regular room, Karl was released with the diagnosis of having suffered a heart attack.

I went to the hospital’s financial office to get the final bill and work out a payment schedule. I prayed the financial effect wouldn’t be detrimental and my mind was already coming up with scenarios in which we’d have to sell our house to pay our debt. I was amazed to learn that the total cost was approximately ten percent of what the cost of treatment would be if performed in the United States. I thanked and praised the Lord for His grace. (Editor’s note: For CHM to share medical expenses incurred internationally, the itemized bills must be translated into English and converted to U.S. dollars. The ministry cannot share bills for emergency international flights. For info specific to missionaries, please see Guideline C.5.)

The next day we flew home with instructions to continue his blood thinner regimen. We thought his medical ordeal was over.

About 10 days later, however, Karl experienced intense pain in his lower abdomen and we rushed him to the emergency room. The medical staff suspected a kidney stone but nothing showed up on the CT scan. He was treated for pain and discomfort and sent home.

A week later, Karl was back in the ER with even stronger pain in the same area. Again, doctors treated the pain, but this time we quickly scheduled an appointment with an urologist.

A second CT scan revealed an abnormality but the urologist felt uncomfortable performing exploratory outpatient surgery because Karl was taking a blood thinner. He instead inserted a stent by his right kidney and ureter as a temporary solution.

A few more weeks went by and Karl’s cardiologist removed the blood thinner from his daily routine, so the urologist performed the exploratory procedure. We were pleased to learn that he found nothing of concern and that it most likely was the blood thinner that caused blockage in the ureter and Karl’s resulting pain.

I cried tears of joy when CHM sent us the check to pay Karl’s bills. CHM members shared more than $35,000 after about $11,000 in discounts. We appreciate the financial burden CHM alleviated and the members who faithfully shared our medical need.

By God’s amazing grace, our two boys and I can celebrate each day with Karl as a gift from God. “Thank you” doesn’t begin to express the deep gratitude we have for CHM and the members who supported us in our time of need.

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