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Hope for a family without insurance

Teresa didn't know where to turn when her son was born with a debilitating disease. Thankfully, she found SVdP.

When Teresa Gastelum had her son, Hernan, she and the whole family were excited for the new addition to their family. But concern quickly rose when they found out Hernan had spina bifida, a condition where part of his spinal cord didn’t form properly and protrudes from his back, as well as another condition that causes fluid to leak from his brain.

This was, understandably, quite frightening, and Teresa had no idea what to do, especially as the family’s only source of income was her job working as a house cleaner with a tamale-making side hustle, and they couldn’t afford health insurance.  

When Hernan was only two days old, he had to have surgery to address his condition, and then another surgery when he was two years old to insert a shunt into his head to release pressure and fluid when it built up.  

While thankful for these life-saving operations, Teresa’s family was limited by their resources, and Hernan wasn’t able to see many of the specialists that he needed.

“There's a lot of other hospitals that I've gone to to try to get the care that he needs… but it is very difficult to be able to obtain medical care for Hernan because we don't have medical insurance,” Teresa said. “It was burdensome. Sometimes I would think, ‘I'm not going to have money to pay for the visit this time.’ But I worked really hard to pay for those visits.”

Fortunately, a friend of Teresa’s mentioned St. Vincent de Paul’s Virginia G. Piper Medical Clinic and that it focused specifically on providing care to people without medical insurance.  

At first, Teresa was skeptical, but everything changed when she visited, she found good news: Hernan wouldn’t just be able to access standard care, he could see a pediatric specialist, a pediatric ophthalmologist, and a urologist–all specialties they couldn’t afford before now offered under one roof at SVdP’s charity medical clinic.  

Hernan Ibarra Gastelum recieves a check-up at SVdP's Virginia G. Piper Medical Clinic.

“Being able to find out that I didn't have a burden of the cost of the services either…It's a great relief. I thank God for bringing me here, and I've been here since that referral,” she said. “He's been a lot better since he started receiving care here at St. Vincent de Paul, and I'm very thankful.”

It has now been five years since Teresa first brought Hernan to the medical clinic, where he continues to receive his ongoing specialty care. Now, Hernan is doing better than ever. Teresa said she’s even seen a difference in Hernan’s behavior.

“He loves coming [to SVdP]. He loves getting coloring books and playing with the soccer balls or basketball,” she said. “He is a lot happier. He smiles more often. Every day. He seems a lot happier.”