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Unprepared

The following is a guest post from long-time reader and commenter, MikeS.  You can also check out his Reader Profile, It Was Supposed To Be A Typical Wednesday, and Flexibility – The Key to a Working Budget.

I like to think of myself as being financially knowledgeable.  I might not have the size emergency fund I want or retirement savings that I want, but I like to think I can anticipate upcoming expenses fairly well.  Life has a way of showing you how very little you know.  It all began a year ago.

Our Second Child

This time last year my wife and I were preparing for the birth of our second child and probably our last.  Both my wife and I do not want to be out-numbered by the kids.  We had scheduled the c-section for the Monday before Thanksgiving.  We had to go the c-section route because my daughter was a little stubborn in coming out, so she was a c-section as well.  We arrived at the hospital early for the 8:30 surgery.  My son arrived just after 9 in the morning.  The doctor noticed a slight murmur, but said this was normal and would probably go away in a few days.

Late that night, I awoke from a nap and my wife informed me that they had taken my son back to the nursery for some tests.  The nurse had noticed his heart beat seemed just a tad high and they wanted to be cautious and run a couple tests.  A little while later they returned with him and informed us that everything seemed to be ok.  His heart beat had returned to a normal level and the tests showed nothing unusual.

My Son Was Sick

The next morning, I woke up around 8 and my wife said my son had been taken back again for some tests.  A nurse had noticed what she thought was some labored breathing and thought he should be checked out.  This time though, he did not return to our room.  A doctor came in to tell us that there was a difference between the two sets of tests and not for the better.  They wanted to transfer him to a different hospital nearby that could better diagnose the problem.

They arranged transportation for my son and began to arrange to transport my wife to the same hospital so she could recover there as well.  He left the hospital between 1 and 2 in the afternoon that Tuesday.  By 4 o’clock we received a phone call.  Our son needed to be transported to another hospital, he had a problem with one of his hearts valves and there were no cardiac surgeons at the hospital.  They wanted to transport him 2 hours away.

I left about an hour or so later, but my wife remained.  She was still recovering from the surgery and could not make the trip.  I arrived at the new hospital at almost the same time as my soon.  I was directed to the NICU where he arrived a few minutes later.  I waited for about an hour or 2 before I was able to go see him.  I finally learned about his condition, aortic valve stenosis.  His valve had not formed correctly and wasn’t letting the blood flow from his heart.  He was scheduled for a catheritization procedure the next morning.  His condition was very treatable and his prognosis was very good.

The procedure went perfectly.  They were able to open up the valve by going through the artery in his leg.  He was transferred to the cardiac-ICU where he spent the next 3 days.  Thanksgiving was actually a big day.  They took the breathing tube out that morning.  Friday, we were transferred to a normal hospital room and then on Saturday we went home.

Sick Is Expensive

I bring this up in a financial blog because of the financial impact.  Since it has been one year, I know the final cost.  The gross amount charged for him was $144,407.  Thankfully, my insurance had negotiated lower rates.  This brought the amount down to $100,751.  My total out of pocket has only been $5,647 over the past year for his condition.

Like I said at the beginning, I thought I was good about anticipating expenses.  I had planned for my wife’s bills from the c-section.  I was totally unprepared for my son’s bills.  He is doing extremely well now.  Our intervals between visits to his cardiologist have been growing longer and longer.  We’re now up to 6 months.  The hope is that he won’t need anything else done until he’s an adult.  I’ll worry more about that later.  Right now, I’m just going to celebrate his birthday.

Crystal’s Comments:  I am so glad he is doing so much better!  I haven’t gotten a picture lately…  ;-)  I’m also just so glad that even though you weren’t fully prepared, it worked out pretty dang well.  Less than $6000 for a healthy baby, woot!  :-)

Anybody else get rudely reminded that they’ve been unprepared?

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14 comments to Unprepared

  • I have a friend who went through an issue with her newborn too – but unlike you guys it took about a month to diagnose and resolve in NICU – with major intestinal surgery. (He’s fine now, thank goodness!) The total charged for all of his care was over half a million dollars, and their co-insurance was pretty high, too. They basically paid most of a state college education for this kid before he was 6 months old. But he’s happy and healthy, and other than a scar should have no issues the rest of his life. I’m glad your little guy is doing well, too!

  • MikeS

    Thanks Mrs. Pop. I feel like we got off relatively easy. After seeing some of the kids in the cardiac ICU, my little guy was pretty healthy. With my insurance, we hit the out-of-pocket maximum for the year for him. If he had needed more extensive care last year, our out of pocket would still have been the same.

  • I don’t think anybody could prepare for the sickness of a child like that. We all hope and pray that they’re healthy. Both of ours have thankfully been free of any major problems, though our son did require surgery to fix a small problem with his ‘man parts’, but even so that wasn’t life threatening.

  • MikeS

    @Money Beagle, yeah we had his circumcision performed back in July. That was about $500 out-of-pocket also. I’m hoping his second year sees fewer doctor’s visits than his first year. :-)

  • We had a similar scare with out daughter. She was also born via c/sec and they had concerns about her breathing as well but she ended up being fine, she just had a difficult transition from life inside the womb to outside. Stories like this make me appreciate my Canadian healthcare system even more. I can’t ever imagine paying a penny for anything like this. I’m so glad you son is healthy but it kills me that you have to pay for it!

  • I’m glad your son is doing better!

    I think this is a great example of how we can be prepared and yet still be caught unprepared. I mean, there’s only so prepared that one can be, right? You covered all yoru bases with the expected expenses, and maybe even had some extra padding, but there’s NO WAY to predict the heart problems your son would have and know that the cost would be in the $100Ks. what’re we all supposed to have emergency f unds that are $500K deep? Not realistic. Sounds like you did everything you could for saving beforehand and are handling the fall-out rather well too!

  • I’m with Catherine. I’m incredibly thankful for the Universal HealthCare in Canada. It would be incredibly stressful worrying about your newborn baby boy let alone worrying about the financial implications of saving his life. I do hope someday that Americans will enjoy the benefits of Universal Healthcare mad maternity benefits, but I’m concerned in an age of lobbyists, and big corporate interests that it may be a pipe dream. I’ll take a cold winter any day if it means Universal Healthcare. Well, maybe I’ll snowbird… haha

  • MikeS

    @Mandy and Catherine – Yeah, I’m glad that my insurance was as go as it was. After his procedure and he was out of the woods, I was a little nervous what the final bill would be, but figured I’d manage somehow.

    @TB – Thanks. My wife made the comment that it’s always something. Seems like we just start getting ahead and then something else hits. Upside is that she is on board for a larger emergency fund, one that could handle $5k worth of expenses.

  • I, knock on wood have not had this type of reality check. A girlfriend of mine however has. Her father inlaw travelled lots for business and was certain that all medical coverage was in place. Apparently after a very sudden medical emergency while travelling in New York landed him in the hospital where he remained for about a week until he passed away. The immediately family was not notified until he died and getting his body released and back to Canada was quite an ordeal because the insurance he thought he had was not and the bill was over $650,000. Suffice to say, the value of his estate covered these bills, but I am sure he would have rathered that money go to his family…

  • Wow, what a story! There some things in life where cost doesn’t matter- like having your child happy and healthy. Super happy your son is doing well and the cost was manageable. Thanks for sharing:-)

  • MikeS

    @Leslie – That’s a horrible surprise. Not only did they have to deal with the shock of the loss, but then the bill on top of it. Hopefully they had some liquid assets in the estate to take care of the bill.

    @Victoria – Thanks!! He’s just like a normal kid right now. Can’t even tell he almost didn’t make it.

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