Nicole and Brandon Overton spent $24,000 on medical bills last year and have $24,000 more to pay off, with some bills stretching as far back as eight years.
Their oldest son, Mayken, 15, has Von Willebrand’s disease, which prevents his blood from clotting correctly. While a muscle tear would cause some pain and soreness in people without this condition, such an injury led Mayken to undergo transfusions in 2011 for internal bleeding.
Son Kafry, 5, has the same condition as well as a Chiari malformation that squeezed parts of his brain. Three-year-old Saben has a more severe case of that birth defect, but does not have Von Willebrand’s.
Because Mayken and Kafry have Von Willebrand’s disease, relatively small injuries can cost thousands of dollars to treat because they require special medication that helps their blood clot.
"Unfortunately, whether the injury is small or big, you have to treat it as if it were big," Brandon Overton says.
Saben’s medical needs are among the costliest for the family. If his Chiari malformation had been left untreated, Saben would be paralyzed by the time he is 8 years old.
The first surgery in 2017 addressed the malformation, but a medical complication after the procedure caused spinal fluid to build up in Saben’s skull.
"There was a moment there where we weren’t sure if he was coming home or not," Nicole Overton says.
Although Saben eventually recovered, the Chiari malformation had already caused physical delays that have required weekly occupational, physical and speech therapy sessions. Saben still has weakness on his right side and light sensitivity that leads to headaches.
Their youngest son, Greeley, who is 5 months old, does not have any health concerns as of now, but pediatricians will test him for Von Willebrand’s when he turns 1 and monitor him for Chiari.
Nicole Overton, 34, has her own health concerns with Celiac’s disease.
Because they have diverted so much of their attention and budget toward their children’s medical needs, the Overtons have half-completed home improvement projects. They have fashioned a large umbrella in their backyard to address Saben’s and Kafry’s light sensitivity even though they really need a covered patio. Half of the living room does not have baseboards, the backyard fence has fallen, and Saben uneasily navigates the stairs because the handrails face the part of his body that is weakened. They also need plumbing repairs.
"It’s crippling us," Nicole Overton, 34, says about the family’s mounting medical debt.
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