Bri's Story . . . A Thank You To Our Community
Posted on Friday, March 30, 2012

Last fall Brianna Standing, a Kawaihae Canoe Club paddler and vibrant 33-year old resident of Waimea, tripped on a tree root in Puako and heard a pop.  Although her leg hurt, Bri continued with her normal activities, assuming it was a muscle strain.    After several weeks of pain and nudges from friends to see a doctor, Bri headed to Hamakua Health Center and was referred to NHCH for an x-ray.  The news was definitely not what she expected -- her x-ray showed a severely broken hip.  The diagnosis itself was difficult enough, but being unemployed with no health insurance made the situation almost unbearable. Bri panicked and quickly left the hospital.  She laughs now recalling that she drove herself home from the hospital with a broken right hip, but at the time it was no laughing matter.  Not sure what to do, Bri returned a few days later to NHCH’s Emergency Department and told Clark, a Registered Nurse, that she had a broken hip.  After pulling her x-ray from radiology, he immediately made an appointment for her with Dr. Hiller at NHCH’s Orthopedic Clinic.  Dr. Hiller, too, was surprised by Bri’s injury, observing that “in 30 years as an orthopedic surgeon, I have never seen a broken hip bone such as Bri’s.”  Again, Bri began to feel anxious as she shared with Dr. Hiller that she did not have health insurance.  Dr. Hiller reassured her that he would do whatever he could to help. And, indeed, he did.  

Bri underwent hip surgery performed by Dr. Hiller at NHCH and stayed in the hospital over Thanksgiving weekend.  Although it was not what she had planned for her holiday, it was a heartwarming experience.  “Everyone I met throughout my experience at NHCH came to visit me after the surgery. Dr. Hiller even stopped by on Thanksgiving day as he ran to the grocery store.  Everyone was so helpful and caring,” says Bri.   “It just never stopped, from Clark in the ER, to Dr. Hiller, to the ladies in pre-op and recovery; everyone always made me feel comfortable and safe.”

Bri knew she had a long road ahead, including 12 weeks of physical therapy and thousands of dollars of debt.  She applied for financial aid but was repeatedly denied.  Reluctantly, Bri contacted NHCH’s Patient Financial Services Department to set up a payment plan to begin paying off her newly-acquired debt.  Lisa, Patient Account Representative, assessed Bri’s situation and advised her to apply for NHCH’s Financial Assistance Program. Bri soon found herself in another unusual situation, just as she had months before.  She was shocked when Lisa informed her that she was approved for NHCH’s Financial Assistance Program and her medical bills totaling more than $38,000 were cleared.  This time, however, Bri’s shock was accompanied by a feeling of support, community and gratitude.  “I was completely overwhelmed by what she told me,” says Bri.  “The fact that the hospital cleared nearly $40,000 in medical bills means I will not be in major debt the rest of my life.  That is a heavy weight lifted off my shoulders, and I am extremely grateful.”

Dr. Hiller’s skill and caring and NHCH’s special financial program lifted Bri up when she was at a low point.  It was a life-changing experience.  Bri wanted to share her story to say thank you to NHCH and to our community, whose generous donations make it possible for NHCH to help those who cannot pay for their medical expenses. 

In 2011, NHCH’s Financial Assistance Program supported 55 people and cleared more than $215,000 in medical costs for services provided to those who qualified.  If approved, patients receive 25% to 100% of their outstanding bills cleared.  Approval and percentage received is based upon a patient’s family income and family size compared to national poverty guidelines.  There is no limit to the financial assistance NHCH may provide each year.  The total amount cleared depends on the needs of the individuals who walk through our doors.