Taking Care of Julie
For more than a year, Louisa, Ky., resident Julie Lumberg dealt with a series of mysterious and random health problems that baffled doctors, robbed her of energy and made it virtually impossible to see, drive or enjoy life.
On Oct. 31, 2011, no longer able to work and unable to afford COBRA coverage, Julie lost her health insurance. Two weeks later, an MRI performed at King's Daughters Medical Center revealed Julie had a tumor in the front of her brain the size of an orange.
Julie is extremely grateful for what happened next.
"They admitted me to the hospital that day," Julie remembers. Within two hours of admission, she met with neurosurgeon Ondrej Choutka, M.D., who explained her choices. "I was on my way to a vegetative state, or death, without surgery," Julie says.
Whether she had insurance - or didn't - was never a factor in the decision to take care of Julie. "No one at King's Daughters ever treated me like I didn't have insurance," she says.
Julie didn't qualify for Medicaid, but KDMC's financial counselors determined she was eligible for assistance through the First Source Disproportionate Share Hospital Program - or DISH. "I'm grateful to First Source for their help," she says, "but it pales in comparison to what King's Daughters did."
Julie's surgery the next day was nearly five hours and required specialized equipment that was brought in from Cincinnati, where Dr. Choutka completed fellowship training and taught.
The minute Julie came out of the anesthesia, she knew she was OK. "I could tell immediately it was gone. I could see. I was tired, but so excited to know that it was over, that I was OK."
She went home on Saturday, her vision back, the mysterious symptoms gone. Within 14 days, she was driving again.
Today, she tells her story whenever she can and encourages people to be their own healthcare advocates. "It makes me humble to think I was the only person who was pushing to find out what was wrong with me.
"If I'd let it go - if I'd accepted the general assertion there was nothing wrong with me - I wouldn't be here," Julie says.
Julie is back to work, and continues to share her story as often as possible. "I want so many good things to come out of what I went through. There is no way I can repay people for all they did for me.
"All I can do is pay it forward."