I read an article about the CEO of AOL using families of premature infants as part of the reason the company needed to make cuts in benefits. Apparently, the costs associated with the care of two infants was upwards of two million dollars. Not surprising. The cost of healthcare in this country is astounding. However, his comments brought upon a backlash and caused him to ultimately reverse the company decision to cut benefits. This article brought to mind a couple of things for me. First, I understand the company’s need to look at the cost of healthcare. I was recently on a work committee that was charged with finding ways to reduce our own healthcare costs and find new plans to offer to our employees. We weren’t privy to the claims made of our employees, and I wouldn’t want to single out anyone who had need of medical services, regardless of the associated costs. After all, that’s why we pay for health insurance–in case we need it. The rising costs of healthcare and insurance is staggering and the impact to businesses is real. It’s a political conundrum that probably won’t be solved by our current policies. But I don’t like to get into politics. The other thing that came to mind, however, is more personal. I was on the receiving end of this story. My oldest daughter was born 3 months premature.
It was a shock, of course. Looking back it seemed there was a warning sign–a constant backache for a couple of weeks–but nothing major. I hadn’t yet gotten to the point in my pregnancy where I was huge and had learned about labor and expectations. The morning she was born, I felt some cramping and eventually called my doctor’s office. I was given an appointment for later in the day. I called my mom and told her I wasn’t feeling so well and described some of the pain. She told me to keep track of it and call my doctor back if it seemed to increase. I was going to simply go back to bed but the pain escalated quickly. To the point where I also realized there was a pattern to it. I called my doctor back and was told to come in, but by then I couldn’t stand straight and knew I couldn’t drive across town. I called a friend to take me. By the time she arrived, I could barely walk. When we made it to the clinic, I was in so much pain, they sent a nurse out to the car and called an ambulance. I was taken back across town, wheeled in to the hospital, moved to a bed and delivered my daughter within 10 minutes of arriving. I remember the room was filled with people, none of whom I knew. But I also didn’t care. It was surreal and frightening. They whisked her away so quickly I didn’t even get a chance to see her. She weighed 2 pounds, 3.5 ounces. I have a picture of her before they put her in the incubator, full of tubes and wires, gripping her dad’s pinky. She was no bigger than her dad’s hand.
My daughter was one of the lucky ones. Well, we all were. She spent two and a half months in the infant ICU and was allowed to go home when she reached 5 pounds. I could write volumes about the agony of that time. The fear, the guilt, the discovering, the elation that went with all the milestones of watching a premature infant finish growing inside a plastic dome. There were so many things that could go wrong. There were many other infants and parents going through the same struggle as we during that time. Not all of them went as unscathed as we did. The only lasting effects of my daughter’s birth were on her eyesight (she needed glasses in kindergarten but grew out of them by high school) and a scar she will always have on the inside of her arm where the pic line was inserted. And of course, the life-changing psychological effects it had on me and her father.
I don’t usually think about my daughter’s tough beginning until I run across something like that article to remind me. I am, of course, always thankful for the outcome we had. But the article also reminded me that I’m thankful I didn’t have the worry of a mountain of medical debt on top of everything else. I had good insurance at the time. I wish that were true for everyone.