Making sure patients have what they need


Perhaps it was related to the stress of her husband losing his job, but Melody Freeman’s multiple sclerosis had kicked into overdrive.

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Since her diagnosis two years earlier, she had suffered intermittent fatigue, vertigo, and weakness in her legs. Now, suddenly, she could neither walk nor control her bladder. Her flailing arms seemed to have a mind of their own. 

Doctors in the ER at Emory University Hospital started her on IV steroids to jump-start the failed signals from the brain’s neural transmitters to the rest of her body. After a few days in the hospital, she was sent to Emory’s Center for Rehabilitation Medicine (CRM), where physician Dale Strasser began her on medicines to help control her bladder so she could sleep through the night. A team of rehab specialists at the CRM began teaching her how to manage activities of daily life, such as how to transfer from bed to wheelchair and back. 

She was a willing and hard-working student, eager to return home to her three young children. But social worker Dorothy Reed noticed problems that went beyond Freeman’s illness.The young woman appeared to be malnourished. Her children’s clothes were clean but threadbare. Her husband sometimes did not have enough money for gas for the trip from Gainesville. 

Reed had taken all the usual by-the-book steps to help Freeman with her situation, arranging for her to receive food stamps and documenting the extent of Freeman’s illness in hopes of expediting her application for Social Security. But Reed and her staff also collected clothes from their own children’s closets and reached into their own pockets to buy school supplies. Freeman was stunned at their generosity. 

When she left the CRM after three weeks, Freeman’s bill was almost $50,000. Her Social Security application was still being processed, which meant she was still ineligible for Medicaid. Freeman is scheduled to return to the CRM for further therapy on an outpatient basis. She’s an Emory patient now, whether or not she ever has a way to pay for it.

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