A recent monetary donation to my team by a Blue Valley employee (whom I’ve only met a couple of times), reminded me about the hospitality and generosity that can sometimes come from the most unexpected places.
In 2010, when I was withering away from the worst Crohn’s flare-up I had ever experienced, I began to worry about how we were going to pay for the mounting medical bills. In the fall of 2010, we were dealing with a few hundred dollars — manageable. When December hit, I became worse. I remember Laura and I having the conversation about whether I could wait until January 1 to do more medical tests and procedures. You see, January 1 marked the date insurance would start covering me. I was in a 3-month dead zone where nothing had been covered. The middle of December came. Christmas passed. And when Laura rushed me to the emergency room on the evening of December 29, I had in the back of my mind (even in the midst of the gut-wrenching pain) “How in the world are we going to afford this?” When the surgeon said I was scheduled for a bowel resection surgery on December 31, I thought it was a cruel joke. I was grateful that there was an end to my pain in sight. But I was fearful for the financial avalanche that awaited us.
I left the hospital six days later. And life was good until the first of February when the bills arrived. Fourteen different bills totaled more than $119,000. After performing my best negotiating skills with two different insurance companies and a number of billing offices, that number dipped closer to $13,000.
And so began the years-long repayment process. At the time, it was insurmountable. When would we ever go on vacation again? Would we be able to afford all of our other bills? Would I have to eliminate my obsessive shoe-buying habit?
Laura, meanwhile, was stoic despite her worries about our financial well-being. And in her leadership class one day at Blue Valley West, she began her routine with the students in which they shared things they were grateful for and things that were burdens. When it came around to Laura, she briefly mentioned how we were focused on recovery but had the financial burden as a cloud. Students took note and offered their cheery sympathetics like they did for everyone else.
Little did we know that these students, who cared deeply for Laura, would mobilize their parents to help us. I can think of two or three times in my adult life that I’ve asked my parents for money, and one of those was for my wedding. And we had absolutely no intention of burdening anyone (let alone students) with our money troubles this time around.
But a month later, a card arrived, signed by her students and their parents. Inside the card was nearly $2,000 in cash. These students, whom I had spent no time with, had built such a close bond with Laura that they showed compassion for a person she loved despite not having ever met me. I was moved. I was inspired. I was humbled.
I think about this nearly every day now that I have begun my fundraising efforts for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s half-marathon run in Las Vegas. The $3,600 that I hope to raise is for me indirectly. But it’s for the 1.4 million other Americans with Crohn’s disease whom I’ve never met. I don’t know their stories. But I know they need the same help that I needed and probably will need in the future. They need the hope of new treatments and a cure.
And with inspiration from those 32 students, I’m going to help.