My husband, Andrew, and I heard of Christian Healthcare Ministries in November 2013 and joined Jan. 1, 2014. CHM plus the Brother’s Keeper program for catastrophic bills seemed, to us, the perfect solution to stay true to our Christian beliefs while still complying with the U.S. health care law.
How, we wondered, could a ministry like CHM offer such a vital service at such a low cost? Little did we know how quickly we would learn the answer to our question.
In March 2014, Andrew called me from work saying he was experiencing pain and loss of vision in his left eye. Our family doctor quickly referred him to an eye specialist, who in turn referred him to a neuro-ophthalmologist in Oklahoma City—about 100 miles away.
After more exams, tests and procedures, the neuro-ophthalmologist’s diagnosis was a rare, infected growth in the retina and optic nerve, which blocked blood supply and only allowed Andrew to have peripheral vision. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI and more blood work during subsequent visits to Oklahoma City.
The next week, he had painful symptoms in his neck and shoulder. The pain increased so rapidly and was so intense that he was admitted to the hospital. We learned that he had a severe staph infection that spread in and around his neck bones and nerves. As if that wasn’t enough to handle, testing also showed a blood infection and varicose veins along his esophagus, which would cause severe bleeding if any of them burst.
Andrew underwent emergency EGD (upper GI endoscopy) surgery to clamp off the largest six veins, while another 20 would be corrected four to six at a time in the weeks and months ahead. He spent 10 days in the hospital and was sent home with orders to remain on total bed rest and to take strong medication for several weeks.
When I arrived home after the surgery, I called CHM in tears. I was blessed by staff member Ken Lefever, who prayed with me and reassured me that ministry members would help us. Since we had also joined Brother’s Keeper, CHM’s optional program for catastrophic bills, I felt comforted knowing that even bills surpassing the regular program limit of $125,000 would be shared. I was able to sleep that night sustained by the thought that Andrew could receive the treatment he needed in the coming days.
The medical bills started rolling in and I was nervous about explaining CHM to our health care providers. I carefully read the Guidelines and pertinent information in the ministry’s newsletter more than once and prayed before I made my phone calls. However, most providers were receptive and agreed to discount their fees. We also applied for the hospital’s charity care discount and received 80 percent off its fees.
A few weeks later, Andrew was hospitalized a second time since his infection was still present and he had anemia and pneumonia. This time, the hospital wrote off his bills 100 percent.
Nevertheless, charges were still accumulating and I found myself with more than 18 bills and as many monthly payments to manage. Since Andrew was off work for a while, we learned a lot about prayerfully depending on God’s provision in times of suffering and hardship. I prayed earnestly for God to show me a timely way to keep our financial commitments. That week, I was offered a job cleaning at our church, which was the exact amount we needed. Praise God!
When all was said and done, we received 66 percent in discounts on medical bills for Andrew’s eye condition and 55 percent off his EGD surgery and related bills. What a blessing it was to receive checks from CHM to pay each of them in full one by one! We’re so grateful for the expertise of the ministry’s Member Advocate department to help us obtain discounts and for Yvonne Woolridge, our CHM Needs Processing representative, who patiently and kindly answered my many questions.
Andrew spent a year recovering his health, which included four more EGD surgeries and many return trips to Oklahoma City for eye appointments, shots and retina surgery. Thankfully, though he still wears a patch, his left eye has finally stabilized and peripheral vision remains, though his central vision never returned.
We love being a part of CHM and we gladly send our monthly financial gifts, knowing they’ll be shared to help other Christians. We heartily recommend the ministry to family and friends.