My name is Rachel Lesch. I am almost twenty-two years old and was born with a congenital heart defect. My aortic valve was malformed and when I was eight years old, I had a minor surgery to try to get the valve to work properly but it ended up causing a tear. When I was eleven, I had the first of four open heart surgeries to repair it. By the time I was fourteen, the repair had become badly infected and I had two more operations.
My most recent surgery happened in 2014, when I was nineteen. I had just started college at Salem State University and had been suffering from severe headaches and then excruciating heartburn. After a number of trips to the emergency room, I was diagnosed with endocarditis, an infection in the lining of the heart. The aortic valve had become compromised to the point of nonfunction and the mitral valve had been damaged as well. Because I was not yet fully grown when I had my previous valve operations, the doctors decided not to replace the valve. Now that I was full grown and the aortic was beyond repair, I received a cow valve. The operation was successful and I have been in stable condition for nearly three years. Recently, I had one of my biannual appointments with my cardiologist, Doctor Freed, who said that the efficiency of my heart has slightly improved, though will probably never be at full capacity.
My story is hardly the worst case scenario. Endocarditis is often fatal if not treated immediately, since it is often mistaken for a less serious ailment, such as the flu, but I was fortunate enough to be diagnosed in time. I also live relatively close to the world renowned Children’s Hospital Boston, received topnotch care from its doctors and nurses, and made a full recovery.
The average cost of an open heart surgery is $80,000 (cost helper health. com) and the a hospital stay typically costs around $10,000 (my physicians now.com). Having a valve repaired or replaced and spending the necessary ten day hospitalization would cost my family upwards of $100,000, and that is before you figure in any at home care and follow up doctor’s visits I would need afterwards. My family receives health insurance through my mother’s job with the state which shouldered a great deal of the financial burden which my health problems caused. If it were not for this health insurance, my family may have faced bankruptcy.
I will be on my family’s insurance for another four years until I am twenty-six and I concerned that it might be difficult for me to get my own insurance because of my preexisting condition. The heart valve I have should last for another fifteen to twenty years and by then I will be well over twenty-six and on my own when it comes to paying for further surgeries I may need. This is one of my biggest concerns for the future.