Community steps up for uninsured and diabetic dad

Offers pour in to help PeaceHealth security guard manage condition

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

Updated: January 29, 2013, 3:12 PM

 

The 26-year-old Vancouver man who watches over the PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center campus now has his community watching over him.

Jesse Wolff is a Type I diabetic who works as a security guard at the medical center. For several years, his diabetes has been uncontrolled.

Doctors warned Wolff that the blood-sugar instability means he could face a coma or a stroke or heart attack. About six months ago, doctors told Wolff he needs an insulin pump, which delivers insulin 24 hours a day through a catheter placed under the skin.

Although he patrols the hospital grounds, Wolff is employed by a contracted security company and doesn't have medical insurance. He makes too much money to qualify for state insurance programs and can't afford to purchase insurance coverage or his medication on his own.

After reading about Wolff's plight in Monday's Columbian, the community extended a helping hand to the father of two.

Dozens of readers contacted The Columbian, wanting to donate money to Wolff and offering advice on where he might be able to access lower-cost medication. Phones at the hospital rang throughout the day with people trying to reach Wolff to offer their assistance. Hospital staff

stopped Wolff while he was on his daily rounds, asking how they could help, Wolff said.

In response to the offers, Wolff set up a donation account, the Jesse Wolff Foundation, at iQ Credit Union.

"I'm very fortunate and very blessed to get this opportunity," he said Monday evening.

One community member donated $1,500 to the PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center Foundation, specifically to help pay for an insulin pump for Wolff, said Michelle Halfhill, spokeswoman for the hospital.

Wolff thought the pump would cost, at most, $2,500. It turns out the cost is actually closer to $7,000, with annual maintenance costs of about $1,500, Halfhill said.

The hospital has connected Wolff with a specialist at its Diabetes, Endocrine and Nutrition Center to determine whether he does in fact need the pump or if regular insulin treatment will effectively manage his diabetes, Halfhill said.

Since his diagnosis in 2008, Wolff's insulin use has been sporadic. One vial of insulin, which lasts 28 days, costs $180. He purchases the medication when he can afford it, Wolff said.

The diabetes center is providing Wolff with an emergency supply of insulin and will work to enroll him in a prescription drug program that offers low-cost medication, Halfhill said.

In addition, the PeaceHealth Medical Group plans to enroll Wolff in its Direct Primary Care program, which offers primary care services to people without medical insurance for $75 a month, Halfhill said. The medical center foundation will help Wolff cover the cost of those services, she said.

Wolff said the outpouring of community support was unexpected.

"I'm very fortunate, and I'm very surprised at how much the community can come together," he said. "I'm just a regular, average Joe who works security."


Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.