Story Bank: F.M.H., Oxford County

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F.M.H., 63, Oxford County

For the protection of our storyteller, we will only be sharing her initials.

F.M.H. left home at 16 years old. She worked for 12 to 18 hours each day, completed her GED and some college, experienced homelessness, and purchased a home. "I broke my body trying to take care of the people that I was supposed to take care of," she said. "I've been trying to improve myself the whole way."

In the 1970s, F.M.H. was told that she had 25 years left to live. She was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, a blood infection that attacks the liver.

Her treatment would cost $1,000 each day for a six-month period, not including the various testing needed to treat the infection. She was without health insurance, and could not afford to pay for the treatment she needed to live.

Currently, she is facing health challenges including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), osteoarthritis, bilateral neuropathy, chronic liver disease, chronic depression, and oral health issues.

Because of her medical challenges, F.M.H. had to take early retirement and is now relying on her Social Security benefits as her only form of income. She receives $418 a month which covers part of her rent and food.

In January 2017, her MaineCare application was accepted.

"I was fortunate enough to be so sick that I had to retire early, and I was able to get MaineCare because of it, which covered the cost [of the Hepatitis C treatment]," she said. "If I hadn't got that, we wouldn't be talking. I got lucky by being unlucky. I have medications right here on the table in front of me and without medication, I would die. It's that simple."

This summer, due to her bilateral neuropathy, she experienced blood vessel contraction which caused her leg to split open. After going to her doctor for some tests, she discovered her wound was staph-infected.

"Without MaineCare, I couldn't afford these medications, and without these medications, a staph infection becomes deadly to me," said F.M.H.

With MaineCare, F.M.H. has been able to get a shingles, pneumonia, and flu vaccination that she would not have been able to afford otherwise.

"These are all the things that I don't have the money to pay for and might compromise my immune system," she said. "It wouldn't take much to close my book."

She is thankful to be enrolled in MaineCare and has received help treating some of her medical challenges. Still, F.M.H. is having trouble accessing oral and mental health services.

MaineCare covers limited oral health services for adults over 21 years old. F.M.H. has not been able to get basic dental care like cleanings and fillings. 

She has also had difficulty finding mental health providers that are knowledgeable in serving transgender communities.

"What they don't realize is just the pain of it," she said. "It's not just mentally, it's physically. I have a body that I truly don't believe is meant to be mine. I hate to say this but I've contemplated the easy out route. Last week I thought about it. There are days when I wonder, do I really want to continue? Do I want to go on? How long do I have to struggle?"

F.M.H. believes that all Mainers deserve health care, and by receiving the services they need, we will all begin to function as a community.

"It's all about how to save a dollar," she said. "There are lots of ways to save a dollar. If people that are sick are cared for, and they're not sick anymore, you're not spending money continuously to make them better. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure."