Recovering Health and Home after Hurricane Harvey

"We went through three major hurricanes and lost everything three times."

Gisela and her family lost everything when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. Gisela found herself in need of urgent medical care, but all of her healthcare options were flooded. As she and her family picked up their lives and relocated, Gisela wasn’t sure she could afford the care she needed – until a doctor’s office in her new home introduced her to MDsave.

 Meet Gisela.

We lived in Houston. We rescued animals in Texas, so we have seven dogs and four cats. You know, I have to tell you, we went through three major hurricanes and lost everything three times; this was the third time. We went through Hurricane Katrina, then we went through Hurricane Ike, and now we went through Hurricane Harvey, and I don’t know what to say except it’s rough.

“Build up again, and get ready for the next one.”

It becomes a habit, you know? It’s strange to say it that way, but you think, “Okay, well, we lost everything. Alright, we couldn’t have lost much because we lost everything the last time.” So we build up again. It’s just an experience. Get ready for the next one, that’s what you do! That’s where we live, that’s what the downsides are. Every region has its own downsides, whether it’s landslides, fires, whatever it is. So you can’t say, “Oh, we should move away,” because there is no place where nothing happens.

How did you end up going to the hospital in Mississippi?

I’ve been suffering from osteoarthritis for many years. I was scheduled for a knee replacement at the beginning of this year, but when I went for my mammogram, we found out that I had breast cancer. I had my surgery and my radiation and everything, but by the time that was over, Hurricane Harvey hit. We lost our home, our jobs and whatever else there was to lose.

Since I only worked part-time, I had a gold card, which lets people who can’t afford health insurance go to certain county doctors and hospitals and pay the minimum. That’s what I had in Texas, but you can only have it if you live in Harris County. So when we had to move, we couldn’t find anything [in the county] because everything was flooded. That’s how we ended up here [in Long Beach, Mississippi] – we moved to be with family first, then decided to stay and find our own space.

I didn’t have insurance then, and I still don’t. I fell at home here, and my knee was already hurting but I was scared that I broke something. So I went to the emergency room, but because I fell on my chest and my knee, they just x-rayed my chest, said “there’s nothing broken,” and sent me home with a bill for $2,600.

How did you find out about MDsave?

I was researching how I can get healthcare, and I found our local family health office. Their payments are on a sliding scale based on income. They sent me to do x-rays. I told them, “You know, x-rays cost a lot of money. I don’t have the cash.” And they said no, you just call, and you go from there. They gave me the number for MDsave, and that’s what I did. I went in for my x-ray and paid upfront, went in and out and had no problem. I called MDsave and when I went to the diagnostic center, they had me in the computer and everything, and I was ready to go.

What was it like working with MDsave?

You know when you don’t have much to offer at the moment, I think you feel like you need to beg for help. And on top of not having anything, you can feel ashamed that you don’t have anything. So it’s a pretty rough time, and you all made it really easy. I didn’t feel once like I was not capable, so I wanted say that I really appreciated that.

At the diagnostic center, everyone was really nice. They treated me like a regular patient. I don’t know if they know everything about me, but they treated me like everybody else. They were kind and professional to everybody.

What do you think about MDsave?

I think it’s a really great organization. It’s very helpful for many people, because right now, there are many people who don’t know much about healthcare anymore. I’m one of them. Finding my way around led me to you, and that helps me a lot.

How are you and your family now?

We’re doing okay! Looking for jobs in the new area and trying to get back on our feet.

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