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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

One Family's Struggle Against Leukemia and Medical Bills

Caety Chong

Staff Writer

Amid the many tragic stories of Americans struggling with health care costs, one Alabama family's situation exemplifies the undeniable need for health reform. The Richmond family has a 13-year-old daughter who is battling leukemia at USA Children's & Women's Hospital in Mobile, Alabama. Because the family is uninsured, they struggle to pay the escalating medical expenses.

Back in November 2011, Caroline Richmond collapsed on the way home from school and was rushed to the hospital. Doctors found that she had suffered from a stroke. Then they discovered that her stroke was caused by leukemia. Caroline underwent chemotherapy, which was so debilitating that at one point, she had to use a ventilator and be fed through tubes. Although Caroline is off the ventilator and has returned to eating solid food, she is still in critical condition.

Caroline's family is among more than 50 million people in the United States without health insurance. Dallas Richmond, Caroline's father, is self-employed and works extremely hard to provide for his family. He owns a coin-operated laundry facility and works a couple of other jobs just to make ends meet.

As the staggering medical bills continue to rise, Dallas and his wife Christy fear that the family might be forced into bankruptcy and lose their home. Caring friends of the family have joined together in an effort to raise money, putting "Cups for Caroline" in all of the homerooms at Caroline's middle school and holding car washes and bake sales.

Some opponents of health reform claim that we have the best health care system in the world, so we shouldn't change it. While it's true that there are hospitals in the United States that provide some of the highest-quality, cutting edge care in the world, it is also true that such a high level of care is only available to the select few who can afford it. And since they can't afford it, Caroline's family has to hold fundraising events just to pay their medical bills.

Tragedies like the Richmond family's story are unfortunately not unique - millions of other Americans face similar difficulties. When the Affordable Care Act becomes fully implemented in the next couple of years, the Richmonds, along with many other families, will be able to find affordable coverage. Caroline and other suffering people will finally be able to get the care that they need at a price that they can afford.

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