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My week with an HBO documentary crew

My buddies are doing a golf tournament on June 13th. If your interested in joining us click here to register.

This week an HBO documentary crew came to our house. This journey starts back in 1989. Only two years out of High School and while I was attending Southwestern Bible College my kidneys failed. I was up in Prescott, Arizona volunteering as a counselor for a Jr. High camp at Prescott Pines. On the final day, I started to feel very sick and my head really hurt. I took some Advil hoping it would take my headache away, but it didn’t seem to work. When I got home, I went to the Dr. and they took blood and did their thing.

I was soon told that I needed surgery in order to put a catheter in my chest for dialysis. I later was told I had Alports Syndrome which is a hereditary disease that runs in my family. Well, I was 20 years old and on dialysis for almost three years, three days a week until… I got a kidney transplant. After the transplant I felt amazing. I forgot what if felt like to feel “normal” and I had an amazing amount of new energy. Here’s the part of the story the part you might not like that I didn’t find out about until later. When I first went to dialysis a social worker came and did an evaluation to see where I was at financially. Since I had Cigna insurance I was encouraged to get on the transplant list. If I had’t had insurance and was not well off financially, the option would not have been discussed. Medicare covers the cost of dialysis, the transplant and three years of the transplant medication. Without insurance, there is little to no chance someone would be able to pay the crazy high expense of the medication every month.

My life was great and to be honest, I just moved on and made a choice to not let my health issue effect my life. While I was on dialysis I met all sorts of great people, and people that allowed there lives be defined by their illness. I was determined to never allow my life to be a reflection of my illness, but rather allow the illness to motivate and encourage me to live life to the fullest. And that’s just what I did until 2004.

In 2004 my transplanted kidney failed and I was back on dialysis. Now life was very different. I had a successful business, a beautiful wife, and a brand new baby daughter. My brother stepped in and asked if he could donate a kidney. He soon went through the process to see if he was a good candidate, and sure enough he was. In April of 2004 our lives then changed forever and quite literally a part of him lives in me today.

In 2007 I went to the local Cigna pharmacy to pick up my medication. When I handed the pharmacist my heath care card, she said I was no longer in the computer. I just thought it was a mistake, but she said I would need to call the number on the back of my card… so I did. The gal on the other end was not helpful at all. She said I no longer have coverage and that I could re-apply if I wanted to. After several calls I was told that since I no longer had medicare, I no longer qualified for Cigna. ¬†After being with Cigna for over 25 years… they just dropped my coverage¬†and sent me to their legal department.

Since 2007 I have been in a whole different world. A world of life with no insurance. The cost of my monthly medicine is over $1400. Throughout 2007 and 2008 I simply worked hard to pay the added expense for my medicine, but as the Real Estate market in Arizona changed, so did my income. As a third generation Realtor with almost 16 years of experience, I simply felt I could work through this… but it’s been harder than I thought.

I have the best Father in the world. He has always been there for me and I’ve learned a lot from him. In October of 2008 he wrote an article for a national kidney magazine. (click here for the article) A man named Dr. Robert Hickey contacted me through the article and said he could help raise money to pay for my medicine. Later Dr. Hickey contacted me and said HBO was doing a documentary and wanted to interview me. Of course I agreed… I have a message that I really want people to hear. This is the message:

Dialysis cost between $60k to $100k a year and medicare will cover the cost as long as a patient is alive.

A Transplant cost around $100k with the cost of medicine each year between $12k – $20k a year. Medicare will only covers the cost of medicine for 3 years.

Do the math and understand that the quality of life between the two is night and day. People should be encouraged to get a transplant without having to qualify financially. Why would medicare pay $60k – $100k to keep a person on dialysis and not pay the $12k – $20k to help a person keep a kidney transplant. When people can’t pay for their medicine, they simply lose the kidney and go back on dialysis. Does that make any sense? (click here to read more about a bill in the works to make this happen)

If you can help me pay for my medicine, Thank you so much! 100% of all donations go towards the cost of prograf, cellcept and prednisone.

Thank you for your time and please pass this on.

Scott Harris

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