Bottomless Well

Maryvale woman who nursed grandson through leukemia now faces her own medical crisis

But Carmen is hardly carefree. She says PacifiCare has still not paid off all of the $4,000 bill for earlier approved visits to Mayo. Worse yet, PacifiCare has refused to refer Carmen back to Mayo for critical monitoring of the progress of her illness.

"We feel her disease can be managed within network," says PacifiCare spokesman Geoff Jaroch, explaining why the HMO won't send Carmen back to Mayo.

"I am trapped in the middle of this twisted, corrupt HMO bureaucracy having the life squeezed out of me slowly," Carmen writes to PacifiCare.

Carmen Phillips and grandson Josh.
Paolo Vescia
Carmen Phillips and grandson Josh.

"In an attempt to save myself, I am reaching out for support and guidance on where to turn. I am requesting that PacifiCare authorize me to visit the Mayo Clinic at least four times per year. . . . Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, I am in great hope that you can help me fight for my life. I want to live as long as possible to enjoy my family. . . ."

PacifiCare responds by notifying Carmen that her complaint will be automatically appealed.

"I am so tired of all this paperwork," says Carmen. "Now that I am sick, it just takes too much energy."

Josh walks into the living room. He is a happy, seemingly healthy 14-year-old. He is currently smitten with a girl named Jessica, and spends hours talking to her on the phone. He excels in science at school, and loves to play basketball.

But he is worried.

If Nan gets sicker, he asks, will she recover?

Will she be as lucky as he was?

Josh bolts to answer a phone call from Jessica.

Carmen says, "He's taking this hard."

"He is my life."

For years, she's tried to protect Josh from leukemia and insurance companies and inept doctors and disappointing court rulings, but now she can't protect him from his greatest fear, losing her.

Contact Terry Greene Sterling at 602-229-8437, or online at

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