Facing health crisis, woman finds unexpected support

Friends raising funds for operation
By Sarah E. Reynolds | Oct 03, 2012
Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds Deirdre Smith sits on the swings in her backyard with her 3-year-old granddaughter, Amelia

Waldo — Deirdre Smith needs a kidney operation, and she can't afford to pay the doctor.

For most of her adult life, she had pain from ovarian cysts, until she had a hysterectomy in February. Then, in June, she had a cyst removed from her kidney-ureter area. And now, she has a new cyst on her kidney, bigger than the first one. Her doctor, she said, has no idea what caused the cysts.

The operation Smith needs would remove the cyst using robotic microsurgery, and then, in a second step, would insert a stent into her ureter to keep the cysts from returning, Smith explained.

The cyst makes Smith's job at the Morrill General Store, where she's on her feet for eight hours at a time, difficult to do because of the pain it causes her. But she still works full-time, because, "I've got bills to pay, and I've just got to keep on truckin."

She said her coworkers at the store have been very supportive, and she would be allowed to work fewer hours if she wanted to, but she has already cut back from 47 hours a week and can't afford to reduce her hours any more.

Smith, who is 43, said that after spending a day at work, "I pay for it at night," with pain that makes it hard for her to sleep. The pain, she said, starts as just a pin prick, but grows until she gets a sudden, burning pain in her side. The pain also makes her nauseous, and causes headaches.

She said she doesn't take the pain medication her doctor prescribed because she doesn't like the way it makes her feel.

Her employer offers health insurance, but Smith isn't on the plan, because it's too expensive. And besides, she said, "I don't get sick too often."

Smith's husband, who works in construction, also does not have health insurance; "he never gets sick," she said.

So Smith is now facing not just surgery, scheduled for Oct. 12, but a health and financial crisis. Her hysterectomy, back in February, was covered by MaineCare, but she was dropped from the state-sponsored health plan May 1. She and her husband make too much money to qualify, the state told her.

The surgery in June drained what financial cushion the Smiths had. Now, with no insurance, Smith said she was told she must pay the doctor's fee of $1,100 in advance.

If she doesn't have the cyst removed, she was told, it could grow to the point where it ruptures and damages her kidney.

So, some friends of Smith's are organizing a benefit karaoke night and raffle to help with her medical expenses. Jen Dodge of Brooks knows Smith because Dodge's mother and sister are regulars at the Morrill General Store and have become friends with Smith.

Dodge came up with the idea of a raffle, and has collected a number of prizes and gift certificates from area businesses. She hopes to hold the benefit at the Morrill Grange Hall Friday, Oct. 5, but the details are not finalized yet.

Smith said of the raffle, "I hate it," meaning that she hates allowing other people to do things for her and has always preferred to rely on herself. She said she will try to attend the benefit, though, and hopes that if someone else in the area needs help, "I can return the favor."

She said she's very grateful for the kindness of people in Morrill who have come to her aid. "It's an amazing town," she said.

Though Smith didn't think she had a lot of friends, "I guess I'm finding out I have more than I thought," she said.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.