Miguel Gomez is a 51-year-old man who was referred to Project Access-New Haven (PA-NH) from Fair Haven Community Health Center due to an infected mass on his left foot. He was referred on February 9, 2016, met with a PA-NH Patient Navigator for an intake visit the following morning, and had an MRI of his foot at Yale-New Haven Hospital’s (YNHH) Diagnostic Radiology facility at Temple Medical Center later that afternoon. He had an initial appointment with a podiatrist approximately one week later, at which time he was scheduled for pre-operative testing and surgery. Mr. Gomez was admitted to YNHH on March 11th for ambulatory surgery to remove and biopsy the mass. He was followed post-operatively by his podiatrist and also seen by an infectious disease specialist. One of the tests recommended by his infectious disease physician could only be conducted by a specialized laboratory outside of the YNHH system. PA-NH requested charity care coverage from the laboratory and helped Mr. Gomez complete the application paperwork (Mr. Gomez only speaks Spanish and the paperwork was only available in English). He has also been treated with antibiotics and pain medicine, which have helped him regain the ability to walk without pain or discomfort. He agreed to share his story and spoke with a PA-NH Patient Navigator about his experience in August 2016. The interview was conducted in Spanish, translated into English, and is excerpted below:
“I have been having problems with my foot since 1990. I was treated in Mexico for some blood that was inside my foot and was becoming like a mass on my foot and it was painful. I had two surgeries, but the doctors were not sure then what was causing my problems. When I migrated to New York in 1994, I started having the problem again. I went to see different doctors, but none were able to help me because they said I needed insurance to get more tests done. I was very frustrated because I knew that I needed help, but I wasn’t able to get it being uninsured and I didn’t have the money then or now to pay for the doctors visits or the tests.
I was also going through some difficult times with my marriage and decided to move my family to Connecticut to have a fresh start. Moving to Connecticut made the situation worse for me. My wife left and I had to take care of three children (now 21, 18, and 15 years old). My oldest daughter had always needed medical attention, as she was born premature and had 10 surgeries already. I felt devastated, but I kept on going because of my children. While taking care of my kids, my job, and trying to keep going with life, my foot just got worse and worse. I have cried so much out of pain that even customers at my car wash job tried to help me with pain killers. I missed a lot of days from work. Because my boss has seen me in so much pain, he understood and never gave me a hard time. The pain was so bad that I thought of cutting my foot off. I just couldn’t take it anymore. But I kept thinking of my children and how they needed me to work. My oldest daughters had to bring me to the emergency department several times. The pain was so bad that they had no choice but to bring me. I would cry to them in desperation.
I started going to Fair Haven Clinic to get help for my foot. The doctors weren’t sure what to do or how to help me since I had no insurance. I was losing hope and I prayed to God to give me strength to keep going for my kids. The same day that I left Fair Haven Clinic feeling hopeless was the day that I received a call from you guys at Project Access. I thank God for sending you to save me. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t walk and bear the pain. The infection on my foot was so advanced that the pus was coming out and burning me. My foot was so swollen that I went from a size 10 to a 12. And then you called me and you gave me hope. I am happy now, I can work. Every day I go home and have dinner with my kids and I am no longer in pain. The doctors are still trying to figure out what causes this, but I am ok now. They told me my foot might stay the same size as it is still swollen, but that’s ok. I have no pain. The medicine is working and I am ok. I have no words to thank you. You are saviors and I will always be grateful for your help. If there is anything I could do to pay you back I would. It has been very difficult for me and feeling better and having no more pain has saved my life.”