Hugo Ramos was born with one kidney, but he had no idea until a doctor performed an ultrasound when that kidney began to fail two years ago and he was told a kidney transplant would be necessary to save his life.
By that time, he had come to the United States from El Salvador, married and moved to Charlotte from New York with his wife looking for a better life to offer their daughters born in the last three years.
“At first I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t want to talk to anyone,” Ramos says remembering the shock of the news.
As the family breadwinner, he immediately began to worry about how he could make ends meet with mounting medical bills, knowing that his second daughter would soon be born.
“My family depends on me,” he says. “I had a baby on the way. My wife cares for the girls. I knew we had to pay our bills somehow.”
Since then, he has been under careful supervision from doctors and trying to go on with his life thanks to dialysis — care he would only be able to access through his health insurance.
Prior to this diagnosis, Ramos had enrolled in health coverage through the Affordable Care Act when it became available because his employer did not offer sponsored health coverage.
“I knew I needed it because you never know what is going to happen,” he says. “I’m glad I did that. Going to the doctor is very expensive. If something were to happen, I wanted to be able to go to the doctor.”
Over the summer Ramos had a catheter put in and went through two weeks of eight-hour days learning how to administer his own treatments.
Today, a wall of boxes labeled for medication are stacked to the ceiling in his bedroom — only a 30-day supply that continually needs replenishing. His dialysis machine stands next to his bed so he can try to sleep while hooked up to the machine for treatment lasting 12 hours at a time.
Because of his condition, he has had to cut his work back from full-time to five or six hours a day, but Ramos says he’s lucky that his employer has been so understanding about his situation.
Each day, Ramos is constantly at risk of infection, and his health depends entirely on how well he can take care of himself and access care.
“The ACA has been a great help,” Ramos says. “Thanks to God I am alive, and I’m able to be here until my transplant.”
Without health insurance, Ramos would not be able to afford the medications he needs, the equipment to administer dialysis or the multiple doctor visits required to make sure his remaining kidney remains functional. Nor could he continue to support his family and go to work without the stressful uncertainty of how to make ends meet.
And without health insurance, the kidney transplant Ramos has been waiting for, that would ultimately save his life, would cost $250,000.
Ramos is living on time granted to him thanks to his ACA coverage. As Congress threatens to repeal and replace the law with healthcare reform that makes it harder for people like him to get the care he needs, all Ramos can do is pray for a solution and hope for the best.