On a bad day, even the tiniest bit of light sends Jeannie Carranza's head writhing in pain. For a year, the Craig resident and mother of two teenage daughters tromped to doctor after doctor to find some answers to her perpetual dizziness, nausea and the ringing in her ears. It wasn't until one doctor ordered her to get a brain scan that the culprit appeared -- an egg-sized tumor nestled behind her left ear near her brain stem.
"Right then, it seemed like everything stopped," Carranza said about the moment she was diagnosed late last December. "I immediately thought I was going to die. I didn't want to look at the MRI. I thought if I didn't look at it, then it was all a bad dream and I would wake up."
But doctors say Carranza won't die. However, she does require surgery that is expected to cost between $70,000 and $100,000. That's no small feat for the family without medical insurance.
Doctors tell Carranza that she has acoustic nueroma, which is a benign tumor that arises from the vestibular nerve responsible for the body's balance. As the tumor grows larger, it presses on the brainstem and can cause a range of symptoms from facial paralysis, hearing loss and vertigo. Carranza experienced all of those symptoms, at times leaving her bedridden for a week a time.
Carranza said that doctors have told her that her tumor has grown to the point that it must be removed. After having her surgery postponed for two months while attempting in vain to secure medical insurance or financial assistance, she's scheduled for an April 8 surgery at University of Colorado Hospital in Denver.
Carranza's husband, Moises, didn't qualify for insurance at his work because he hasn't been with the company long enough, he said. Jeannie is a certified nursing assistant and worked for Centennial Home Health Care until she became too sick to care for her clients. Jeannie said insurance wasn't available through the start-up company.
The family has gone through its savings and incurred $2,000 of debt to pay for Jeannie's health care costs upfront. But the thought of dealing with mounting bills is overwhelming.
"They tell me not to worry about the financial part, but how can I not?" Jeannie said.
On a brighter note, Jeannie said doctors have told her she'll be able to go back to work after healing from the surgery. Her company is keeping a position open for her and she's excited to get back to working with elderly people with whom she's formed strong bonds.
However, after the surgery she's also expected to completely lose hearing in her right ear and experience temporary paralysis on her right side that may last up to a year.
But at 4-foot-1 tall, and sharing a wide smile on this day, Jeannie said she wakes up most days thankful to be alive.
"Every day I wake up and I'm grateful to be alive and have two wonderful daughters," she said. "I wake up and thank God for a good day because sometimes they can be hard to come by."
Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org