When Dany* first came to the Clinic, he and his wife had suffered through more than their fair share of hardship. Both fled their home nation in Africa as refugees, and were eventually resettled in the United States. Finally safe from the violence in their home country, Dany and his wife were ready to start their new life together. Soon, they were blessed with the birth of their first child. Everything was going well. But then, Dany began to have health issues. He went to see a doctor and learned that he needed emergency brain surgery and hospitalization. Without the surgery, his doctors told him he could go blind, might become paralyzed, or might even die. Although Dany did not have health insurance, he and his wife decided to go forward with the life-saving surgery. Slowly, he began to recover, but the procedure left Dany’s family deeply in debt.
Clinic Staff Attorney Matthew Gaudin says of the situation, “The bills started at over $100,000. He was able to get those reduced some through negotiation by himself with the hospitals. But he was still left with $75,000 in medical bills.” Matt attempted to negotiate on Dany’s behalf, but hit a brick wall when he learned the lowest monthly payment they would accept was $900.
At this point, Matt pursued a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy for Dany. “The big reason we wanted to file was because, if we didn’t file, eventually the creditors would sue him in court and garnish his wages and take about 25%,” he says. And although both Dany and his wife were employed, their income was still quite low. “Any decrease in income through garnishment would be detrimental,” Matt says, “Especially because they have a young child.” After filing for bankruptcy and taking two credit counseling classes, Dany’s bankruptcy was discharged.
“When someone comes to us in financial hardship, when they’re at the very bottom of the pit of financial ruin, it sort of takes over their whole life,” says Matt. “I think that our job is to reassure them, to let them know that there is a way out of this and allow them to have the fresh start.”
For Dany, this fresh start means finally being able to live the life that was almost taken away by violence, and then by illness, so that he, his wife, and new baby can thrive. “When I let him know that all the medical debt was discharged, he felt extreme relief. It was sort of like the ending of this chapter in his life,” Matt says. “He was extremely grateful for the services that the Clinic as a whole provided him.”
*Name and certain details have been changed to protect client’s privacy.