Xochil lives with her husband and three children. She had been ill for months with heavy bleeding and severe anemia before being diagnosed with multiple uterine fibroids. She was unable to schedule surgery without health insurance or proof that she could pay, and ineligible for MNsure. Emergency Medical Assistance (EMA) from the county was her only option.

Paralegal Enid Abreu (pictured above) is a Project Care Navigator in our St. Cloud office, providing one-on-one assistance to low-income Minnesotans who need healthcare coverage. Xochil was one of Abreu’s first clients.

“At first, I didn’t think we could help her,” Abreu recalls. “I didn’t yet know the details of her diagnosis, and EMA is difficult to get – it requires proof of a life-threatening situation. I told her we’d do what we could and if this didn’t work, we’d find another way.”

A few days later, Abreu received a call from Xochil’s social worker at the healthcare clinic with more information about the urgency of the situation. Xochil’s condition was life-threatening, and unlikely to resolve without surgical intervention. Abreu and the social worker collaborated to document Xochil’s condition and the considerable risks of delaying surgery.

“Xochil was so patient throughout the complex application process,” Abreu says. “She had been ill for months and knew things could get worse at any moment, but she always responded calmly with everything I asked her to provide.”

After administrative errors and delays, the county finally agreed to provide EMA. The surgery was scheduled, and everyone took a sigh of relief. But the day after surgery, Abreu learned the county had decided not to approve the payments without more documentation.

“I felt terrible about bothering Xochil so early in her recovery,” says Abreu. “But she reassured and thanked me – I think I was more stressed than she was!”

Abreu submitted the documents, and the county approved the spenddown arrangement to pay part of the medical bills. The financial relief was a great help for Xochil and her family during the recovery period.

“The surgery changed my life, and Enid was my biggest help,” Xochil says. “She was always there to support me. Not one time did she say, ‘there’s nothing we can do about this.’ She never stopped – she found a way.”

Abreu was impressed by Xochil’s demeanor throughout the process. She observed the power that comes with a combination of perseverance and gentle courtesy.

“Xochil was willing to work through each barrier, always with that calm that made everyone want to help her,” says Abreu. “She was an inspiration, and I learned that I can be both kind and fierce in my advocacy. I’ll bring that to my work with every client.”

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