Sick and Far From Home Helping immigrants navigate health care

In 2012, Maria, an immigrant from Honduras became sick.800px-US_Navy_060531-N-1577S-129_A_local_doctor_performs_a_cataract_surgery_on_a_patient_at_Zamboanga_Medical_Center

No one was sure what was wrong as the young mother began to lose weight, eventually getting down to just 80 pounds. Before hospitalization, Maria worked her day shift at McDonald’s, putting in eight hour days without a break then walking 30 minutes home. She continued to care for her 4-year-old son and sent money to Honduras to support her 7-year-old son and mother. Eventually, she lost so much weight she was admitted to Mary Washington Hospital and was identified as having type 1 juvenile diabetes. The diagnosis came as a shock since Maria had no family history of the disease.

Diabetes is a disease that requires constant upkeep. Maria had to learn how to take insulin shots four times a day, how to check to see if her blood sugar was too high or low and how to use money orders to receive medicine since she didn’t have a credit card.

Because she is an immigrant, it was harder to receive services for her treatments; LUCHA was able to help her find a specialist in Charlottesville about 1.5 hours away and facilitate interpretation and transportation.

Uncertainty about what to do when you get sick can be a big issue for immigrant families. Learning to navigate the intricate bureaucracy of the health care system is difficult enough for native English speakers, but for those who are still learning the basics, the task can seem insurmountable.800px-Needle_Syringe_Spike

Immigrants must find ways to pay for check-ups or treatments since they often are unable to receive health insurance. Just one of the 8 medicines Maria needs for  treatment costs $200 without insurance.

Second, they may need reliable transportation. Many of our clients are unable to drive long distances to Charlottlesville or Richmond but cannot find basic services in Fredericksburg.

Finally, without translation services, many of our clients who are still learning English feel uncomfortable speaking with nurses and doctors who use phrases  that are unfamiliar or filled with medical jargon.

LUCHA provides services to help immigrants navigate the intricate health care system. We believe everyone should be equipped with the tools they need to know what to do when they get sick. Today Maria is doing well. Although she still has much to deal with from work and motherhood, she is learning how to combat her illness and move forward.

16288-a-female-doctor-examining-a-patient-pv