Augusta Health Cancer Services Bridge Fund: One man’s story

augusta-health-headerMark Brown of Waynesboro worked for decades, and then the circumstances of his employer put him into an early retirement while still relatively young.  He traveled to Germany to visit his cousin, and remained there for three years.  A ‘military kid’, Mark had actually been born in Germany—but after that extended visit returned to Waynesboro, planning to get a new job and return to ‘normal life’.

But right after his return, he had a blood clot in his leg—very unusual.  Then another clot—really unusual.  Then a lump, followed by physician visits, CT, diagnostic tests, and an appointment with an oncologist.  “It was kaboom-kaboom-kaboom, and I had cancer.  It’s really been a blur.”

Since his job had ended, and he hadn’t started a new one yet, Mark was left without insurance and a rising number of bills to pay.  And that’s where Augusta Health’s Cancer Services Bridge Fund stepped in to help Mark bridge the gaps that seemed to be everywhere.

While cancer patients do need excellent clinical care, compassion and understanding—they may also need personalized help or assistance with anything that is a barrier to that care.  The Bridge Fund is used to ‘bridge the gap’ when the patient has a critical need and no other assistance is available.

Patients do receive help from the Cancer Center’s social worker and financial advocate—to receive financial assistance from Augusta Health and Augusta Medical Group physicians, to enroll in Patient Assistance Programs with providers and Medication Assistance Programs with pharmaceutical companies, to file for disability, Medicaid or Medicare when that is appropriate—but there are still expenses left uncovered.  These include:

Expenses incurred between acceptance into the program and the start of its benefits;

  • Prescriptions that are not covered by the assistance programs;
  • The cost of nutritional supplements, both oral and tube feeding supplements, not covered by the programs;
  • Upfront costs for uninsured patients who need outpatient surgery for port placement before starting IV Chemotherapy;
  • Help with transportation costs; and
  • Assistance to purchase wigs, turbans, hats, mastectomy bras and lymphedema sleeves.

“Every day, I see people who are just knocked off their feet by cancer; they are worried and scared.  They are just trying to make it through treatment the best they can.  The Bridge Fund helps these patients during one of the most difficult times of their lives.  It makes a huge difference,” said Leigh Anderson, Licensed Clinical Social Worker at the Augusta Health Cancer Center.

“The Bridge Fund is figuratively and literally a lifesaver,” Brown explained.  “Little things start adding up.  Lots of need go uncovered, and that causes panic.  The Bridge Fund relieves the panic.  I’m so busy jumping from thing to thing to treat the disease.  The Fund brings peace and calm and relieves the stress of day-to-day operations.  I don’t have to worry about having enough gas to get to the hospital for treatment.”

“I can honestly say, as someone who has benefitted directly from the Bridge Fund, it’s a life-changer.  It’s like having cancer itself—unless you’ve been on the receiving end of it, it’s hard to understand the complete effect,” added Brown.  “It’s just phenomenal to have a resource like this.”

The Bridge Fund is supported solely by financial contributions from the community; 100% of the fund is used for patients and there are no administrative fees.  The Bridge Fund supports cancer patients living in Staunton, Augusta County, and Waynesboro, as well as parts of Alleghany, Bath, Highland, Nelson, Rockbridge and Rockingham Counties.

Augusta Health Foundation’s first fund-raising Gala, in honor of Augusta Health’s 20th Anniversary, will take place on Friday, September 12 at the former Moss Museum in Waynesboro.  Tickets are $100 per person, and proceeds will benefit the Augusta Health Cancer Center’s Bridge Fund for patients.

For information about the Gala, or to register for the event, please contact the Augusta Health Foundation at 540.332.5174.


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