Pay the Price, Relieve the Pain

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Tomas Uribe from Colombia shares that his health insurance came in handy when he had to have surgery after a sports injury. His essay was a finalist for microscholarship #1.

It all started on a sunny Fall morning when it happened. We used to meet up every Sunday to randomly team up and play some soccer, or old-­?fashioned football as some call it. As almost any Colombian out there, soccer is a dogmatic quasi-­?religion, which has to be played anywhere we migrate to. Unfortunately, little did I know that my experience in New York as an international Colombian student would dramatically change on that morning. Imagining a slow motion sequence in a very Kill Bill fashion,I jumped to receive the ball with my chest in a very clumsy manner, and knowing my fate didn’t look very attractive in that fraction of a second, I landed on my right leg, amplifying an indescribable cracking sound all the way up to my inner ear, letting me know my anterior cruciate ligament was completely torn.

Knowing the severity of my injury, I went home to analyze the situation. I knew my knee was in deep trouble, but even more than that, an entire library of myths about the US health system and insurance stories started to crawl in the back of my head, haunting my thoughts about the next steps I would take. It almost made me forget about the pain.

International student voice magazine Tomas1It’s worth saying that two months before this event, I waived my school’s recommended health insurance –Aetna– due to the elevated costs I refused to pay, and bought a cheaper, more accessible international student health insurance–ISOA. At a third of a price, I was covered with this new insurance and my school accepted this equivalency. Again, health insurance myths haunted me once again, and obscured my steps towards what I need to do to take care of my knee. Anyways, I decided the best way to start getting better was doing something about it. My school’s health services office is very convenient, and thankfully, they gave me crutches, painkillers, and several phone numbers to get in touch with a knee specialist. One by one, doctors informed me they didn’t take my insurance, or that my coverage was too low. Frustration was the only adjective that could define that Monday morning. I was out of my comfort zone (i.e. home), fogged with depressing stories of elevated medical bills, thinking about how I was going to deal with this considering I had to attend class and keep working at my on-­? campus job.

Finally, one doctor accepted me (and recommended my future surgeon). Long story short, I went to numerous appointments: consultation, therapy, fluid draining, MRI, X-­?Rays, specialist visit, among others. The stress regarding the potential medical bills I would have to pay after everything was over was growing exponentially. I basically had to prioritize things: get better. Summing up, I had a successful ACL reconstruction surgery, excellent medical attention, have a great physical therapist, and looking forward to tell this story to anyone I can. I was lucky given my situation as an international student; since every doctor acknowledged the difficult situation I was in. I also found out about an emergency fund my school offers to students’ special needs. And last but not least, the incredible support of family and friends.

If any advice can be offered, do not take your health for granted. As an international student, one must enjoy the experience, make the most out of it, and try not to worry about the things the school gets paid for dealing with, such as suggesting a health insurance. Lesson learned: pay the price, relieve the pain.

Tomas Uribe from Colombia studies at The New School University.

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