When Children with Cancer Grow Up (2008)

Almost 20 years ago, when Alex Miller received a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the 4-year-old was showered with medical attention.

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston became a second home, one he returned to regularly for checkups and care even after his leukemia disappeared. The Egleston nurses and the Emory physicians who practice there were his second family. 

Then he grew up.

Alex: When his medical bills ran up to $5,000, Alex's mother called Emory to cancel his next appointment.

  Charity Care

Let Us Worry About That

When Catastrophe Outpaces Insurance

When Children with Cancer Grow Up

Lifting the Burden of Being a Burden

Two years ago, working with medical oncologists at Children's, Emory Clinic radiation oncologist Natia Esiashvili created a clinic at Emory for young adult survivors of childhood cancer, many of whom, like Miller, go from an embracing continuity of care to no care at all. Like so many of his fellow survivors, Miller definitely needs follow-up, preferably from a doctor familiar with childhood cancers and the potential complications from the treatments that give young patients the chance to reach adulthood in the first place. In Miller's case, a series of MRI scans suggested the presence of cavernomas, changes in veins in his brain that could have been caused by the cerebral irradiation he received and that now were causing his headaches.

Miller also shares something else with many fellow survivors. He is too old to be covered by his parents' policies, Medicaid coverage has been discontinued because of his age, disability benefits have been denied despite his difficulties in holding a job, and he has been unable to get insurance because of his medical history. When his medical bills ran up to $5,000, Miller’s mother called Emory to cancel his next appointment. He simply couldn’t afford it.

No way, said social worker Martha Giardina. That's not what happens at Emory, even without insurance. Instead, Emory Healthcare classified him as charity care, meaning Emory would write off his bills so that the young man could stay in that second family he had known from childhood.