Thursday, August 21, 2008

Olympian's Sister Awaiting Transplant

This is a sad commentary on Kaiser Permanente, the insurance carrier that is mentioned in this article. We will publish information on fund raising efforts for Amanda, as the information is received.

Olympian's sister sits in Anaheim, hoping for a new kidney
MORNING READ: Amanda Lappin cheers for her sister, Lauren, while holding out hope for insurance approval that could extend her life.

ANAHEIM Lauren Lappin has waited her entire life to live her dream, while her sister Amanda is dreaming just to live a normal life.

Lauren, 24, is in Bejing this week, a reserve infielder and back-up catcher on a U.S. Olympic softball team attempting to win its fourth consecutive gold medal. Amanda, 28, is in limbo. She spends much of her time getting dialysis while waiting for financial approval for a kidney and pancreas transplant. If she doesn't get healthy organs, she'll die sooner than she probably would otherwise.

"The irony is we have these athletes in the family and Lauren is at the pinnacle of her career," said Helen Valdez, the women's aunt and Amanda's care-giver. "And Amanda is at the lowest of her low."

Adding to her physical hurdles, Amanda, this month, is dealing with the emotional anguish of not being with the rest of her family to cheer on her sister.

"It's the moment that my sister's been working for and striving for her whole life," Amanda said through tears. "It's all coming to fruition right now in China, and I'm not able to be there to watch it. I would give anything to be there and experience it with my whole family."

And while Lauren is waiting for her chance to start a game, Amanda is waiting for her chance to finish her life.

Five years ago, doctors at UCLA Medical Center told Amanda that she needed a transplant, and she recently was put on the transplant list to get the procedure. But, last month, her insurance carrier said it wouldn't pay.

Valdez, working as Amanda's advocate, is taking the delay personally, spending hours on the phone every day trying to work out something for her niece.

"She's hooked up to a machine and she's 28 years old," Valdez said. "She's never been able to date a guy consistently and she'll never have children."

It Didn't Sink In

The Lappin family name is synonymous with sports at Loara High. Dean Lappin, Amanda and Lauren's father, is the Saxons baseball coach and Uncle David coaches the football team.

Lauren, the youngest of three Lappin children, played four sports, including softball and was selected as the Register's Female Athlete of the Year in 2002. The oldest, Archie, 29, starred in football, where he was selected Empire League Player of the Year in 1996, and went on to play football at Santa Ana College.

Amanda, the middle child, took what is, for the Lappins, a road less traveled. She joined the Saxons' dance team.

"We've always been really different," Amanda said. "We have different hobbies, but we still support each other."

But Amanda's life changed permanently at age 16 when she was diagnosed with Type 1 or juvenile diabetes. Amanda said the shock from the diagnosis was numbing.

"It didn't quite sink in. It felt like they were talking about someone else," she said. "When it did sink in, it was really hard for me."

Archie, then a senior in high school, was diagnosed with the same condition a month after Amanda. But the condition affected the siblings in different ways.

"He went right along with it," Amanda said. "It didn't affect him much, which kind of affected me more. It made me wonder why it was harder for me to deal with it."

As Amanda's condition worsened, Archie was setting passing records at Santa Ana College and Lauren was starting her athletic career at Loara.

"There's no jealousy. I'm proud of what they do and what they've done," Amanda said.

"I have to look at it as this is my situation and this is what I get to deal with."

While her siblings were starring, Amanda's organs began to fail.

"The assessment that time was to get her on a transplant list before Amanda had to start dialysis," Valdez said.

But that plan didn't work. Amanda's kidneys deteriorated to the point that at age 25 she was placed on dialysis. November will mark Amanda's third year of having to take the treatment. Each treatment lasts 3 hours, 15 minutes.

She can't eat many common foods, things as diverse as bananas and oranges, or dark sodas and bacon. Amanda says the toughest part of her diet is monitoring her liquid intake.

"I can only have 32-40 ounces of liquid between treatments, and that's really been a struggle. I used to chew on ice, so I have to factor that in. Popsicles, soup… Anything that would turn into liquid."

There in spirit

Amanda and her healthy sister are symbiotic in their inspiration of each other.

"She's told me how much I inspire her," Amanda says. "When she told me that, I said, 'Are you kidding? You're the biggest inspiration ever.'"

"Her focus and determination are just awe-inspiring. If you watch her in her element, you can see it in the way she talks and the way she walks."

Though Amanda can't physically be with her sister in Bejing, a piece of her is on the softball field. Before she left, Lauren asked Amanda to make her something she could wear while playing. Amanda made a bracelet.

"Just so that I know she's here with me and she knows that I'm there with her."

The rest of the Lappin family is in Bejing, in part, because this is Lauren's last shot at an Olympic Gold Medal. Lauren was an alternate for the 2004 Olympic team, and 2008 is the last year that softball is slated to be part of the Games.

Valdez said Amanda's time also is running short.

"She needs a transplant like yesterday. She's got to get this transplant before her body wears down anymore."

After the Olympics, Amanda says her sister plans to become a coach at the collegiate level. As for herself, Amanda's plans are simpler – just a transplant.

"From what I've heard, after transplants, people have more energy. They feel 110 percent better and I'm looking forward to that."

She said her ailments have made her stronger, but she's eager for a new challenge.

"I'm ready to put it in my past and move on to the next part of my life, and not have this on my back."

Friday, August 1, 2008

Guaranteed Issue Health Insurance

The state of California guarantees issuance of health insurance to any business of two or more owners/employees that qualifies according to the standards of the various insurance carriers within the state. What this means is that anyone with pre-exisitng medical conditions can obtain health insurance if they are an owner or employee of a legitimate business entity containing two or more persons.

A business can operate as a corporation, LLC, partnership, or sole proprietorship and obtain health coverage as long as at least two people are listed as officers or employees of the company. One insurance company will accept a legitimate business license as proof of eligibility, and a good health broker can consult with small businesses on whether they will qualify.

What this means is that those on expensive COBRA or HIPAA plans due to medical conditions may have an alternative to secure lower priced health insurance if they own a business. A business cannot be established for the sole purpose of procuring health insurance, however a legitimate business entity may be able to re-structure in order to qualify for group benefit programs.

I have consulted with many small business owners over the years and assisted them in establishing group benefit programs for their small business. The cost savings, in some cases, have reached 50% per month savings over COBRA premiums. If you own a small business or are self-employed and paying an exorbitant premium for health insurance, please contact me for a FREE no-obligation consultation. Don't let your health destroy your wealth.

John F. Pack
CA Insurance License 0D98889
949-400-4729 (cell)