We the Patients

Debt to Avoid Death – John’s Story

“My story is complex,” said John*, a 50-year-old living in New York State.

Over two decades, he’s gone through a series of health complications accompanied by high medical costs and other daily living expenses.

At the age of 24, John was two years away from finishing his college degree in Alabama, but he had memory, headache, and eye pain issues. Because of this, he was referred to a doctor, then another, and another after that. John was admitted for brain surgery at UAB Medical Center. Although the surgery procedure went well, John was readmitted for a staph infection that almost killed him. He was left with steep credit card debt for his medical care and living expenses during his illness.

John had jobs in Atlanta, Georgia, but was unable to keep them because of illness. Additionally, he had chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by depression and prolonged sickness, so he spent some years in and out of work during that time.

He then moved to New York City, but got severely sick and could not take care of himself. He was able to pay off his medical debt at the time because his grandfather died and left him an inheritance.

But John had to borrow another $30,000 on credit cards when he got sick again. He didn’t have health insurance, so he avoided getting care at a hospital and took medications to get better on his own. A social worker convinced him to go to Bay Ridge Job Center, which helped him get on welfare, Medicaid, and disability. With this, he received all the medical care he needed.

“It only took twenty years to finally get my health issues in order and I went back to college for a degree in IT (Information Technology).”

Now, John lives in New York and is on disability.

Throughout these times in his life, he did not have emotional support and went through psychological distress. Not only could he not pay off his debt on his own, but he had and still has to deal with his health struggles accompanied by sky-rocketing medical costs.

“If there wasn’t kind strangers who talked me through things, I wouldn’t be here.”

To learn more about the campaign to end medical debt in New York, visit https://www.cssny.org/campaigns/entry/end-medical-debt.  Have a story to share about your healthcare experience? Contact us at wethepatients@cssny.org.

*Name changed for anonymity

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *