A Hero Doesn’t Always Have Big Shoes to Fill

Many news outlets have touted the inspiring story of an unlikely friendship between Michigan State University basketball star Adreian Payne and childhood cancer sufferer Lacey Holsworth.  Adreian and Lacey met approximately 2 years ago when members of the team went to visit children in a local hospital.  

At 6 foot, 10 inches, I would imagine Adreian has some big shoes, but his actions were not those of the typical “heroic nature”.  A hero does not have to run into a burning building, scoop someone out of the churning ocean, or restart a heart on a city street.  To be an “everyday” hero, it just takes compassion, a simple act of kindness, enjoying a laugh when it’s way too easy just to cry.

Around the medical establishment, there are those well-known “everyday” heroes: doctors, nurses,  PAs, NPs, MAs etc.  It is not very often that anyone in the “billing” department is thought of in that light.  It is true that medical billing staff can frequently be as popular as the tax collector, but it does not have to be that way.

We can do our job well and at the same time be compassionate, caring and understanding of those patients we serve.  Unless it is a routine wellness check-up, when a patient comes in, they are sick.  Even a minor illness can be the cause of anxiety and stress due to lost hours from work, unplanned expenses or the “what if it isn’t just a cold”.

For many years, I worked in Radiation Oncology, so it was never “just a cold”.  Part of my duties was to obtain authorizations for both diagnostic testing and radiation therapy.  On more than one occasion, I was the bulldog with a bone.  I would not let it go until my patient was approved for whatever my doctor felt was necessary for their best care.

My most trying case was a man who required a very specialized surgery for an extremely complicated throat cancer, offered at an out of state hospital.  He unfortunately had only in-state coverage on his commercial policy.  Each day for about two weeks there were letters of medical necessity from all his local providers, follow up calls to the medical director, coordination with the out of state provider. 

In the end, we won, he had his surgery out of state, and although he has since passed, was able to live a good quality of life for several years.  I may not have performed the surgery, but my tenacity paid off, I was part of that success.  Each time that patient came for a check-up he would come into my office and announce to everyone that he was alive because of me. 

That does not make me a hero. Or does it?    You can take that extra time to answer those patient billing questions, fight for treatment or testing they require, figure out how to make the financial burden a little less heavy.  

Lacey called Adreian “Superman”.  You can be someone’s Superman or Wonder Woman.