Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Message from Steve

Hi everybody, this is Steve.
I just want to thank you for everything you've done for me and my family. This whole thing has been so humbling to me. You know, you go through so much turmoil and heartache with the insurance company and you think, "What's wrong with the world?"
You're hit with a problem that's so much bigger than you and you're knocked over and falling. And then there are people next to you, helping you out, and it's just amazing.
I'd gotten behind on insurance premiums (yep, Cigna. But we have to keep the coverage, no matter what Cigna has done). Because of you, I was able to pay the past-due premiums. I used your contributions to get new tires for the donated van and do the minor repairs it needed. Last night, we used the van to take Marian to the beach.

It was our first family outing in 18 months. We had a ball!
It's really hard for me to ask for help. I've always been self-reliant. But you have treated me like family.
And I can't thank you enough.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

7 days. $7,700.00. Hope. Finally.

Dear Friends, we first sent out the link to this blog early in the evening one week ago today. We had no way of knowing what to expect, but we received our first donation very quickly, at 7:02 PM that night. Since then, Steve's story has been shared on many blogs, forums and message boards. We are being followed by people on Facebook and Twitter and other social networking sites. We have received money from people in almost every state in the US. We got our first donation from Ireland this morning, joining those from our friends in Indonesia, India, Japan, South Africa, Canada and Australia. We were also amazed to receive a handful of donations that were $50.00, $100.00, even $200.00 and more! But the overwhelming number of contributions have been $20.00 or less, so to have reached nearly $8,000.00, in less than a week, is staggering. There is no amount too small to give and we are deeply thankful for every person who takes the time to click that Paypal button. We have also received many personal messages of comfort, encouragement and support, all of which we have shared with Steve.

So, it's working. We have such a long way to go, but we've come so far, it's hard not to have the wildest hope for Steve and Marian, two truly decent and loving people who deserve the attention and care they are finally getting.

In the next few days, we hope to have some very exciting news to share and we will also be posting a message from Steve and Marian along with some photos. We have only just begun these efforts and we need to keep the momentum we have going, so we ask again that you continue to share Steve's story with as many people as you can find. This is how it's done, one person at a time, and we thank each one of you for your kindness and generosity.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thank you and pass it on!

This morning, we crossed the $4,500.00 mark! Steve would very much like to express his gratitude to the people who have already made contributions to help his family. He is deeply touched and overwhelmed by the generosity of so many people, most of whom he will never know. A van has been donated that is already equipped for transporting Marian which means that, for the first time since she's been home, the family can leave the house together to go to church or the park or the store. When Steve told Marian about the money that has been raised for them and the about the van, she wept. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of this tragedy is that the Marian we know: lively, loving, full of adventure, is trapped in a body she cannot control because she has been unable to receive the therapies experts have ordered for her. Marian is in there, desperately trying to speak again, to move independently, to embrace her husband and children. And so, we ask you to please, please continue to tell people about Steve and Marian and to urge them to make some contribution to cover the cost of her therapies. And THANK YOU for all the effort you have already made to help us save Steve's family!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

We are making progress!

UPDATE: The word is getting out about Steve and his family! We have had donations and messages of hope and encouragement from all over the US, and from as far away as Canada, India, South Africa, Japan and Australia. Steve’s story has made it to many message boards and forums, Twitter and Facebook. This is only the beginning and, to achieve our goal, it is vital that we press every button and tell every friend. We have managed, in the truest grassroots fashion, to share Steve and Marian’s story with many people. Please continue to tell your friends, coworkers and family members to read Steve’s story and to pass it on. We would like to reach a million people with his story, but the only way we can do that is with your continued help. Together, we can help Steve’s family overcome the terrible adversity they are facing. Thank you for your generosity and support! If this is your first visit to Steve's blog, please take a few minutes to read his story below and to make a contribution of any amount. Then be sure you share it with others.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Who are we?

We are a small group of people whose purpose is to tell Steve's story and to raise money for his wife's rehabilitation via contributions through this web site. As Steve has single-handedly battled CIGNA for his wife's care, we recognized the need to liberate him from the decisions of this insurance colossus. A trust account has been established for donations and our hope is that many people will read this story and contribute a small amount to help this family. If a million people read this blog and every one of them gave a single dollar, together, they will accomplish something enormous. Marian can recover significantly, but it won't be free. Steve has had to leave his job to care for Marian and their two small children fulltime. He has fought day in and day out for more than a year to get CIGNA to authorize Marian's care. No one could do more than he has done to get her the help she needs. And we, Steve's friends, now feel that getting Marian's rehabilitation is a job for many people -- as many people as we can get to read about her and respond to this plea. Thank you for taking the time to know about Steve. We love him and we want to help him. You can help us do that by donating to this cause. No contribution is too small. Certainly, there is none too large. But, please, PLEASE, contribute. Then ask your friends to contribute. And your family. And their friends. You get the picture.

Who is Steve?

Steve is a photojournalist for the St. Petersburg Times in Florida, on an unpaid leave of absence. He is the devoted husband of Marian, the adoring father of Chloe (7) and Grant (4), the friend of many.

Steve and Marian have been married since 1997.
Their lives revolve around their children. Until 2004, Marian taught Spanish at Central Florida Community College. Then she and Steve decided she would stay at home full time to home school their children. "She wanted her kids to be fascinated by the world around them, to make them curious about people, cultures and lands. She was the glue that kept us all together," Steve said. "When she wasn't teaching the kids, she read, she learned about other countries, she loved to fly kites, she cooked Mexican food, we'd go to the beach. She was so curious and vibrant and lively. We were just a really close family."

Marian was once a lifeguard; she loved swimming, art and drawing. She took every opportunity to teach the children by experience. The family went to the Everglades, to the Smoky Mountains, camping and exploring whenever they could.

Then, one night in April 2008, Steve and and his young family were confronted with a challenge few of us can imagine facing. Their family has since been thrust into turmoil and uncertainty.

What happened?

On April Fool's Day, 2008, Steve came home from work. Marian didn't feel well. She had a horrible headache and her neck hurt. Steve took over with the kids, then went to check on Marian, who felt a little better.

"An hour later," Steve said. "I heard her call out to me -
'Steve!' - in the strangest voice. It was so urgent."

Marian thought she was having a stroke. "My right side is numb, my hand is numb and I can't see," she told him. Her pupils were unevenly dilated. Steve called 911. By the time the ambulance arrived, she was vomiting. Marian was rushed to Citrus Memorial Hospital where a CT scan revealed a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

She was transferred to Tampa General Hospital. Over the next few weeks, Marian suffered 3 additional hemhorrages and Steve was told more than once she likely wouldn't survive. At one point "
the doctors were telling me she was brain dead and that I had to think about organ donation," Steve said. Time and time again, however, Marian rallied.

Doctors were surprised that she began to show signs of life, and was, again, responding to stimulation. What doctors saw on CT scans of her brain was better than they expected. Doctors told Steve that there was a chance she could make significant recovery with 18 or more months of intensive therapy and rehabilitation.

"We had hope," he said simply.

C.I.G.N.A. = Cheap Is Good, Nothing Approved

As she recovered from surgery, Marian continued to make progress at Tampa General. She was responding to neurological stimulation and to commands. Steve brought in a tape of the music she used to play to the kids every Sunday morning and played it for her. "She started to cry. Tears just rolled down her cheeks. She recognized it," he said.

Steve's insurance company, CIGNA, began pushing him to have Marian discharged to a long-term hospital. "It was the worst thing I could have done," he said. "It was like something from a third world country." Before even receiving the records from Tampa General, Steve said the neurologist at the facility characterized her as a "shunt patient in a persistent vegetative state." CIGNA seized upon this language and began pressuring Steve to have her put on Medicaid.

"I had to wait for weeks to get the chief of therapy to do a real evaluation of her, so they could see that she wasn't vegetative, so they could see her respond to commands and react to music and other stimulation."

And that became the wall Steve had to scale again and again: CIGNA said Marian would never recover, couldn’t progress; they wanted Marian placed in a custodial facility, where she would be maintained at a minimal level, but not treated in any meaningful way. There would be no future for them as a family, or for Marian as a mother and a wife. To the insurance company, Marian was no more than an empty shell with nothing to gain and nothing to contribute. But Steve knew better.

He fought for her to be sent to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago – a premier brain-injury facility. Based on RIC’s determination that Marian needed intensive inpatient rehabilitation, CIGNA approved the transfer and Steve flew with Marian to Illinois.

Weeks later, RIC doctors said she couldn’t continue her progress without major surgery to excise a bedsore (which kept her from participating in physical therapy). They transferred her to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where she had the wound removed, then underwent a second operation to close the wound, as well as two surgeries to try to restore her vision, which would allow for further improvement in her occupational therapy.

As Marian struggled to overcome the effects of so much surgery, CIGNA declared she wasn’t making sufficient progress. They wanted to ship her to a nursing home, where she would receive only custodial care. No physical therapy. No occupational therapy. No speech therapy.

“She has to have the chance to recover as much as she can,’’ Steve said. “They just want to write her off and wait for her to die.”

CIGNA officials flatly refused to approve Marian’s return to the rehabilitation center, insisting they would only pay for nursing home care.

“No,’’ Steve said, “I’m not going to allow that.”

Because Steve is Marian's legal guardian, the hospital where she underwent her surgeries could not discharge her without his approval. And hospital officials couldn’t transfer her to a nursing home unless Steve gave his okay. Which he refused to do.

Through October, November, December, January, February, March, Marian remained at the acute care hospital with sporadic and very limited therapy.

Juggling job demands, kids needs, Marian's heart

At the beginning of this Chicago ordeal, Steve and Marian's children, Chloe and Grant, were staying with relatives in Oklahoma. In December, Steve brought them to Chicago so they could have Christmas with their mom. The day before Christmas Eve, hospital officials told Steve he had to get Marian out of there. They could no longer care for her because CIGNA was cutting their reimbursement. Steve stuck to his guns, refusing to approve a discharge. They were not going to dump his wife into a place of no progress and no return.

Meanwhile, Steve had to get back to Florida, had to put the children back in school and day care and had to return to work at the newspaper. He is his family's only source of support and they were financially devastated by Marian's continuing illness, his daily war to save her and his family's scattered existence.

He was also Marian’s only hope of recovery, her daily therapy partner, her companion and constant supporter. It was his voice, his touch, his words of comfort and encouragement that kept her struggling to get better. Now they would be thousands of miles apart.

When he returned to Florida, Steve fought to keep his career afloat, his household running and his children content. Every single day, while he was at work, he got a telephone call from a committee at Marian’s hospital, pressuring him to approve her discharge. CIGNA had reduced the hospital’s reimbursement rate to that of a nursing home – a cut that cost the hospital thousands of dollars every week she was there.

Marian was on the medical/surgical floor – an expensive unit. It was full. And she was taking up space without bringing in enough money to pay for her care. Steve wouldn’t budge. He would not allow her to be warehoused in a nursing home, with no hope for improvement.

“What kind of outcome do you expect?” the hospital’s committee members demanded.

“I can see her learning to use a motorized wheelchair,” Steve said. “I can see her learning how to talk again, so she could be part of our family in a real way.”

In fact, Marian WAS learning to talk again. And, thanks to the surgeries, she had regained partial vision in one eye. Every therapist who saw Marian at the hospital recommended her return to an inpatient rehabilitation center – RIC – for intensive therapy. In all, more than 25 medical professionals, doctors and therapists who were specialists in their fields, examined and treated Marian and recognized her need for acute inpatient therapy.

But Cigna's hired doctor, who never laid eyes on Marian, never talked to her, examined her or treated her, determined such therapy was not medically necessary.

Denied, said CIGNA. Denied. Denied. Denied.

The company contacted Marian’s hospital: Starting in February, CIGNA would pay NOTHING for Marian’s care. Nothing to the hospital. Nothing to a nursing home. Everything was off the table. It was as if Cigna officials were trying to show Steve who was really in charge. If they couldn't get him to accept limited care, then they'd refuse her any care at all.

In March, Steve flew to Chicago and met with the hospital committee, yet again. This time, the doctors from RIC attended the meeting. Steve begged for Marian to get SOME kind of intensive therapy.

The hospital made an offer: They would keep Marian for a few more weeks at no charge, while she got enough aggressive therapy to prepare her for discharge home. There, Steve hoped, she could get in-home nursing and therapy services and, finally, be with her family again.

Stranded in a Rural Subdivision

That’s partly what happened. Marian did receive several weeks of therapy and was discharged April 10. The Chicago doctors ordered her to have physical, speech and occupational therapies in Florida. So Marian was sent home.

But CIGNA hadn't finished with Marian and Steve. CIGNA's doctors "reevaluated" her and determined that Marian wasn’t making – couldn’t make – sufficient progress to warrant all the recommended therapies. CIGNA’s doctors are employed by the insurance company. They never saw her. They never treated her. They just made a determination to get the insurance company out of the messy business of paying for the care she needed.

They authorized only limited occupational therapy at home. No home nursing care. Inadequate equipment to help Steve move Marian from the bed to wheelchair or treadmill. She had only an old standard wheelchair, when the doctors insisted she needed a custom chair because of her unique physical condition.

So there was Steve, back on unpaid leave from his job, trying to take care of Marian at home with no help. He had no one to watch her while he took the children to school and day care. When Chloe became sick with a spiking fever, Steve had to call a medical transport company to take Marian and the whole family to the pediatrician’s office so his little girl could be treated.

He can’t go back to work now. Marian can’t be left alone and CIGNA won’t pay for in-home care.

Each morning, Steve has to gamble – rushing the children to school, barreling through the grocery store for the day’s supplies and bolting home, praying all the while that nothing has happened to Marian in his absence. He is trying to keep his family together and happy and to meet everyone's needs, but he's drowning.

He has hired an attorney to fight CIGNA’s refusal to pay for intensive therapy, but it’s an agonizingly slow, arduous process of seeking medical documentation, waiting for hospitals, doctors and CIGNA to reply to requests for records.

But, amazingly, in all of this, Marian IS making progress. Her vocabulary is growing and her interaction with Steve and the children gives hope to them all. By using a lift he bought with his own money, Steve was able to get Marian on a treadmill to begin moving and exercising her legs. He is trying to enroll her in a University of South Florida speech therapy program. But he’s running out of money and time and options.

We all know, and experts who have seen Marian, evaluated her and treated her agree, that Marian can make a tremendous recovery. That she can be a participant in her family and a mother to her children. The single impediment to her recovery has been the insurance that she and Steve paid for, for years, and then had the nerve to rely upon when it was time for them to use the coverage they had purchased.

Right now, Steve spends every night sleeping in a chair next to Marian's bed, holding her hand through the silent hours, taking care of her personal and medical needs. He tries to keep the children occupied and entertained, but this lively family that once went on great excursions together, now goes nowhere.

As their lives become ever more limited, Steve has watched his children retreat into a sadness he is powerless to soothe. He can't continue to meet Marian’s needs. He can't spare his children the anguish of watching his struggle and witnessing their mother's painful efforts to overcome this cataclysmic injury. The daily tasks of caring for the family are more than any one person can manage. Although the Times has extended his leave, Steve is fearful that at some point, in this stressed economy, the Times will have to cut him loose.

The only thing that can change all of this is money. It all seems so overwhelming, but if every person who read this story gave some small bit, this is a family we can save.

We, Steve's friends, have opened a trust account for his family. The account is intended to provide Marian with the various therapies she needs to recover, to pay for the medical equipment and in-home assistance Steve needs to keep her healthy and help her improve and to manage the basic needs of his family.

Please, PLEASE, help us, Steve's friends, to save his family.

Please go to the upper right hand corner of this blog to make a donation in any amount, via Paypal.

You can also make a check out to "Marian Coddington Trust" and send to:

Suntrust Bank
Attention Special Handling VA-RIC-9292
P.O. Box 27572
Richmond, VA 23261

And when you have made your donation, please tell everyone you know to read Steve and Marian's story and ask them to make a contribution as well.

We are deeply grateful for all of your generosity. Thank you.

Wherever possible, throughout this story, we have provided links to verify the information we are giving, but if you have any questions to ask before you feel comfortable making a contribution, please feel free to direct inquiries to