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IlaMae Stucki

Health concerns forced early retirement for nurse, health costs forced her back to work

retired RN, concerned wife and mother

I was a nurse for 35 years and I loved doing what I did. But I had to quit what I really loved, due to health issues. I was 54 when I took a medical retirement. I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, back and neck pain, a clotting blood disorder. I could go on and on, but I won’t. Really, I’m an optimist.

Despite health issues, my husband, Ken, and I thought we might travel and spend time with our seven grown children and 34 grandchildren. But this isn’t the retirement we had planned. I get about $1,000 a month in Social Security and that doesn’t go very far to cover my health care costs.

Last year, when we did our taxes, we calculated that we spent $25,000 on medical bills. The number of medications that I require makes it really cost-prohibitive. Even after my doctor orders a prescription and I go to pick it up, I’ve had to tell my pharmacist: “I’m sorry. I can’t afford it.”

Both Ken and I have had to go back to work in our 60s to pay our health care costs. He drives a bus and I teach classes for students who want to be certified nursing assistants. It can be really difficult when I wake up and realize it’s going to be a bad pain day.

I know there are a lot of people out there like me. My 87-year-old mother also has at least one prescription she can’t fill. Sometimes it works to wait until a drug goes generic, but even generics can be expensive. I guess about the best we can do is keep our chins up and do the best we can.

“I’ve had to tell my pharmacist: I’m sorry. I can’t afford it.”