Family away from home

Marti Haile


Charity Care

Family away from home

Getting beyond the red tape

Getting to graduation

Small costs in large numbers

No one else to ask

Twice Marti Haile had gone to outlying county hospitals with back pain, twice been given pain pills, twice postponed the long return flight to Australia until she felt better.

Early in January, when she awoke unable to walk, struggling to breathe, her friend’s son drove past more than half a dozen emergency rooms to get to the one at Emory University Hospital (EUH).

Admitted for studies, the 45-year-old woman was found to have a large tumor pressing against her spinal cord. Emory surgeons removed some of the tumor, but it was too late to undo the damage to the central nervous system. Haile was transferred to Emory’s Center for Rehabilitation Medicine (CRM) to learn how to live as a quadriplegic, a complex process made more complex because she had to transfer back to EUH every three weeks for a round of intense chemotherapy. Haile, originally from Ethiopia, speaks little English. The CRM has hired an Amharic interpreter.

Haile calls CRM’s Dorothy Reed her “sister,” grateful for the kindness and help that Reed and others at Emory give her every day. What the social services care coordinator cannot do, however, is get the Australian back home or find a way that Emory will ever be reimbursed for the more than $1 million it already has spent on her care, with no easy end in sight. Reed believes she has talked United Airlines into flying Haile home, even with all the complications involved with a severely ill, paralyzed patient. But every hospital Reed has contacted in Australia says it does not have an appropriate bed—and besides, they add, the woman has no suitable discharge plan, no family or friend who will take responsibility for her there. Haile’s health crisis became Emory’s responsibility, legally and financially, and—as Haile would say—like that of family.


  Dorothy Reed  

Social workers often can help get the most vulnerable patients access to different types of public and private aid. What can be harder is finding a facility to care for them once they’re able to leave the hospital.


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