Richard & Becky Szydlowski, Banning, CA

Total eligible bills
$747,650
Provider discounts
$331,072
Total bills shared
$416,577

My wife, Becky, began to feel physically weak in December 2013. Her condition worsened despite treatment for the flu and pneumonia.

In early January 2014 I took her to the emergency room. Her red blood cell count was 5.6 (a normal count for women is 12 to 15). She received two units of blood, was hospitalized for five days and underwent many tests.

After two weeks, the doctor gave us bad news: Becky had multiple myeloma cancer.

Our hearts were broken. She never dreamed she could have cancer, but I had done a lot of reading and was preparing for the worst.

Now the worst had come.

Becky started treatment with chemo injections twice per week. The doctor said the best treatment plan was to work toward remission, followed by a stem cell transplant.

He referred us to a hospital in Los Angeles where the transplant would cost $980,000. I was shocked at the price tag and called Christian Healthcare Ministries immediately.

I told Beth in the Needs Processing department that we were facing nearly $1 million in expenses. I felt I needed to apologize that we were such a burden. Her response was quick and compassionate: “It’s okay, Mr. Szydlowski. What you have with CHM is better than an insurance plan. You’re a Gold member and are a part of Brother’s Keeper.* Don’t worry; we’ll take care of the finances.” I knew then she was talking about CHM members sharing to help us.

I received a packet from CHM with information about how to submit our bills to the ministry. One paragraph stated that if you were receiving the packet, something had come up that was very serious. Though not the exact words, it ended with: “Realize that God is with you and we are here to assist you.” I remember shedding a few tears. It was a message from the Lord.

The hospital stood firm on its price even after weeks of negotiation. I researched online and found an autologous stem cell transplant (meaning that Becky would receive her own stem cells) costing between $300,000 and $600,000. I also compared costs from several hospitals including one of the best cancer centers in California. Originally $700,000, discounts reduced the estimated bill to $343,330—a great savings compared to the original hospital’s price.

Since CHM doesn’t have a preferred provider list, I knew that our bills would have been shared even if we’d chosen the original hospital, but with God’s guidance we decided the hospital offering the $343,330 price was the best option. From day one of our journey, His presence has been evident. Becky never had to worry about the cost and she received the best possible treatment.

The injections she needed also were expensive. We applied for assistance and saved $106,260! I had learned the best way to get discounts was to speak with someone face-to-face. “I have something better than insurance,” I told providers.

Initially, I was discouraged by how the providers seemed more interested in profit than in helping patients. After treatment, however, that perception began to change. Sometimes they would mention discounts even before I asked. Many looked for means of financial assistance to help us. Most hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and chemo treatment providers were willing to give discounts. Very few did not.

We’re very thankful for God’s provision throughout this difficult journey. Each day had—and still has—a set of new challenges. Yet God has always been there and we look to Him daily. The prayers and support of God’s people strengthened our hearts and helped build our faith.

Thank you to the staff and members of CHM. CHM members shared more than $416,000 in medical bills and have been an unbelievable agent of God’s love and care.

*Editor’s note: Brother’s Keeper is CHM’s program for catastrophic medical bills.

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