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We read all the time about how high medical bills shock patients and their families.
Voices for Affordable Health recently updated our surprise medical bills page with new consumer stories. But even we were struck by a story from Vox health reporter Sara Kliff because it illustrates the terrible choices people are forced to make.
Lindsay Clark, a 36-year-old mom, caught her 2-year old daughter with a small bottle of the anti-nausea drug Dramamine.
“It had a child lock on it, but I caught her sitting there with a bunch of white stuff in her mouth,” Clark told Kliff. “I immediately swept her mouth with my finger, but I wasn’t sure how many pills she ate.”
Clark called the poison control hotline to ask if she should take her toddler to the emergency room. The answer: Yes, a Dramamine overdose could lead to seizures. She was told her little girl should be monitored, that doctors would likely give her activated charcoal and maybe pump her stomach.
As concerned as she was about her daughter, Clark was also worried about the expense. She’d gone to the emergency room a few months earlier after falling down some stairs and had $1,200 bill she still hadn’t paid.
Clark and her husband decided to give Lily some activated charcoal at home and drive to the emergency room. But they wouldn’t go inside.
Instead, they stayed in the parking lot. They played The Little Mermaid on the car’s TV screen for Lily to watch. And then they waited.
Lily developed no symptoms and, after a few hours, the Clarks drove their daughter home.
“I was sitting there thinking, ‘Am I a bad person?’” Clark said. “I’m weighing my daughter’s life against how much the bill is going to cost.”
It’s incredible to imagine the fear and emotions Clark felt while she sat in the car with her daughter. Have you or someone you love been forced to make difficult choices because you worried about the cost of care? Share your experiences and solutions with Voices for Affordable Health.