In January of 2010 I started a new lifestyle. Details of my journey can be found here. Suffice to say, I lost more than 90 pounds. In early June of 2010, I received notice that my current health insurance provider was going bankrupt and I could convert to a policy from another insurance company that would cost me twice as much with a $10,000 deductible. This was their catch all policy that basically said everyone in the group would be accepted despite any pre existing conditions. I knew I could do better than that. I applied for a new policy and was initially accepted. The plan cost less than I had already been paying and had a low $500 deductible.
A random blood test revealed that I had elevated bilirubin levels. Since this was a potential sign of liver disease, the new insurance company refused to cover me. So facing uncertainty in my own health, I was forced to go with the high deductible and more expensive insurance plan. Before I could undergo more detailed tests to explain the elevated bilirubin, I started having additional problems. I had a persistent pain in my right shoulder, and then my left side started hurting. Another physical revealed I had blood in my urine. My doctors started discussing the worst case scenarios of what could be wrong with me, including cancer. Such wonderful encouraging people we have in the medical field.
It took my doctors months to find out the causes. And it took several expensive tests. The results were that I had some large kidney stones that would not pass on their own, and diseased gallbladder that had gallstones. Stones all over the place! The elevated bilirubin turned out to be a recessive genetic disorder that would not cause any problems other than showing up as high bilirubin levels. One less thing to worry about, but I still was faced with two surgeries. I had my gallbladder removed the day after my birthday (and what a nice present it was). And then I had the kidney stones taken care of the day before Thanksgiving (in hindsight, none of this made any sense). I was ready to move on with my life and slowly pay back the growing medical bills.
Five months later I had to have another surgery. Of course this was in a new year and I had to meet a new $10,000 deductible. The surgery was painful and expensive. Mentally I was done in as well. Depression overtook me. I had always been a happy guy. Face it when you make people laugh for a living, you tend to be full of joy. I had never been able to grasp how anyone could be depressed. As a result I had little true compassion for those that told me they were depressed. Now here I was in that same horrible situation. I spent days not wanting to do anything and feeling like I would never get better. I felt sorry for myself and nothing that my friends or family tried made me feel any better.
Here I was living healthy and eating right and what did I have to show for it? Three surgeries in a six month time period and $24,000 in medical bills after insurance! For a while I considered just going back to my old lifestyle. At least when I was obese and eating greasy food I never had to have surgeries. Slowly over time I came out of my depression. It took lots of soul searching and prayer . And honestly I felt stronger for having gone through everything. And now I could identify firsthand what depression was like. I was no longer flippant with people experiencing depression in their own lives. What about the medical bills? I started saving money like a madman. I built up a savings account to help me and my family and made payment arrangements with the hospitals. And I started paying them back in one dollar bills! You see as a balloon twister it was not uncommon for me to bring home up to $200 a week in $1 tips. So instead of taking this to the bank, I would bundle it up and take it directly to the hospital billing.
In late July, 2011 my wife and I were on staff at the School of Missions. We provided training in creative ministry and care for missionary kids while their parents were attending sessions about raising funds, networking, and other training for foreign missions. On Wednesday, our focus was on prayer, and the kids and teens prayed for my family. One young man prayed that God would meet our needs. Amen to that! Thursday night closed out the School of Missions. They took up an offering for us from the missionaries. Let that sink in. Missionary workers that are desperately trying to raise their own support so that they can be obedient to God gave to me and my family. We already received an honorarium for what we were doing, so this was above and beyond. I was humbled. The missionaries gave just a little over $1,200 to us.
For many years, my wife and I have talked about taking a missions trip. We wanted the opportunity to go out and see some of the “kids” that we had ministerd to and trained. In my heart, I felt that the $1200 should be used for that purpose. But the practical side of me said that the money should go towards the medical bills. My wife confirmed that she wanted to use the money for a missions trip as well. Sigh, no use arguing with God and your wife too.
When we arrived home, it was time to pick up the mail that we had put on hold. Along with piles of junk mail there was a letter from the hospital. I had received a grant from the hospital. $24,000 in medical bills were wiped out. The letter had been written on the same day that the missionary teens and children had prayed for us. You can call it coincidence if you want to. I know that it was God’s miraculous timing.
My wife and daughter took a trip to Haiti in June of 2012. At the end of September, I took a mission trip to Cuba. Through the generosity of churches and individuals, the trip was not only fully paid for, but I was able to bless ministry workers in the country as well.
“God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” Ephesians 3:20