Medical Debt: $5,993
I had a non-life threatening emergency room procedure that came at exactly the worst time possible, the holidays. When I was 23 I was at football / holiday party with friends and family. We had the regular burgers, wings and sides, but being a recent graduate from culinary school I decided to show off my skills. So I grilled fresh fish and shrimp to make some really tasty seafood tacos, big mistake… Well the tacos were a big hit with everyone. Where things went bad was when in the middle of putting everything together I accidentally sampled one of the shrimp and swallowed it whole. I was watching the TV while preparing the seafood tacos and because my team was playing, I got a little too excited about a play that was going on. I ended up yelling at the TV instead of chewing the shrimp. I just swallowed it whole. I wasn’t able to dislodge it because it was completely intact and basically stuck in my esophagus. I had incredible chest pains from it, after a full 12 hours of it not coming loose I realized that I was going to have to get medical help for this. I didn’t have health insurance and I was concerned about having to go to a hospital for treatment but I felt like I didn’t have any choice.
So I went to the ER and after having to explain this stupid reason for being there, they decided that the best course of action was to send a small scope with a video camera and a claw down my throat to remove it. First they had to put me under full anesthesia, which as soon as that happens, the costs for any procedure even one as stupid as this go way up. The doctor that removed it, he actually set it aside so that I could see it after they brought me out of anesthesia. I heard lots of giggles and jokes from the nurses and doctors who were involved.
As if having to go to the hospital for something so dumb wasn’t bad enough, I ended up with a bill of more than $10,000. Because I didn’t have insurance they gave me a pretty significant discount. It didn’t really matter because I was just out of school, not earning much as a prep chef at an upscale restaurant and I had lots of bills to pay already.
I ended up having to pretty much cancel Christmas presents for family and my girlfriend that year. It took me 18 months at roughly $335 a month to pay off the full (discounted) $5,993.