Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital: Arranging the long journey back

Susan Freed and Sister Rosemary Smith
Susan Freed (left), director of care coordination, and Sister Rosemary Smith, chief mission officer, helped get Lawrence’s medications paid for through the hospital’s Compassionate Care Fund.



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Tom Lawrence, a flight attendant, had flown into Atlanta early that morning, watching over some 200 sleepy passengers.

Now he was getting ready to work the return flight to home base New York. Nothing was out of the ordinary, except why did he suddenly feel a little dizzy, unsettled, an invisible belt tightening around his chest?

He got to a nearby clinic, and someone called an ambulance. He was rushed to Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, where he underwent emergency open-heart surgery. Always healthy and active, he had not expected a heart attack and certainly not the post-operative complications that left him breathless and barely able to walk. He also had expected that his health insurance would take care of whatever came.

It didn’t. But the hospital did.

Life-saving surgery is often just the first step in getting patients back into life. Lawrence’s insurance covered five days of hospitalization. He needed—and got—25. Also not covered were physical and occupational therapy to maximize his mobility.

Once he no longer required oxygen, he could be discharged. But how would he get back to New York, as weak as he was? He had no family. His doctors, physician assistant, case manager, and therapists were in constant communication. Social worker Karen Weaver turned to Southwest Airlines (not the small airline for which Lawrence worked), which sometimes provides free tickets for patients and their families and, in this case, for a friend who offered to help Lawrence navigate the trip home.

Weaver and fellow social worker Jessica Weinstein also asked vendors to donate a walker, wheelchair, and other equipment. Care coordinator Susan Freed and Sister Rosemary Smith, the hospital’s chief mission officer, got Lawrence’s medications (also uncovered) paid through the hospital’s Compassionate Care Fund. The biggest challenge came when Lawrence got home, however: finding and helping him pay for the uncovered private duty home care he needed and a home health agency that would work with his limited insurance. The team succeeded.

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