When Vilma walked into the Legacy Good Samaritan emergency room back in 2015, her new husband Carl at her side, she recalls that she felt terrified, and it wasn’t just because she was having an emergency asthma attack and couldn’t breathe.
“I can hear the rattle in my chest, but in my head all I’m thinking is, ‘I have no insurance, I have no insurance, how are we going to pay for this when I have no insurance?'”
Vilma came to the United States from Costa Rica in 2011 with her husband Carl, a U.S. citizen. The two had met several years prior on one of Carl’s many trips there. Following a late-in-life courtship that left them both feeling like teenagers, Vilma accompanied Carl back to the U.S. to help care for him during his recovery from open heart surgery, but not before the two married in Costa Rica, making her path to citizenship here, not to mention her access to health insurance, complicated.
“I was treated very well [at Legacy], but I learned that my asthma was going to get much worse because of a problem with my thyroid, something I knew nothing about.”
Vilma learned that a pre-cancerous tumor was growing on her thyroid gland, necessitating a total thyroidectomy, a weeks-long process that would require many doctors, many consultations, and a long recovery. “And I just didn’t know how we were going to pay for any of it.”
Luckily, staff at Legacy did; they told Vilma and Carl about Project Access NOW.
As a client of Project Access NOW’s Classic Program, Vilma worked with her amazing Providence and The Oregon Clinic doctors to get the surgery that they say likely saved her life. She was also enrolled in primary care through Wallace Medical Concern and even got help paying for rescue inhalers for her asthma through Project Access NOW’s Pharmacy Bridge Program.
Carl was proud to return the favor as he cared for his wife while she recovered from surgery, tending to her bedside and picking up her inhalers from the pharmacy.
“Those inhalers are real expensive,” says Carl, “even if Vilma had insurance, just the copays could have ruined us. With Pharmacy Bridge, we pay $4 per inhaler.”
“Project Access NOW saved us,” says Vilma now. “I’m Catholic and, I want you to know, every time I go to an appointment, I always say ‘blessings on the doctors and the nurses, blessings on the interpreters and on all of the undocumented. And, of course, blessings on Project Access NOW.”