MY CHRONIC ILLNESS JOURNEY

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My name is Alexa Suess. I was 19 years old when I had my first bout of severe abdominal pain. Thinking it was just some cramping, my ER doctor sent me home with some Advil.

 

Six years, thousands of hours of agony, five specialists, and more than a quarter-million dollars of medical debt later, I found out that my pain was not actually routine menstrual cramps. I had a rare bile duct dysfunction that caused necrotizing inflammation of my pancreas. My body was eating its own pancreas, the cause was unknown, and I was deeply in debt.

This chronic illness journey has been long. The bills added up to just shy of half of a million dollars. The pain I feel every day is a sensation I always expect to get used to but never quite do; my symptoms have become faithful companions in my life. 

 

It took many years for me to pay off my medical debt. If this walk can generate enough funds to help relieve one person of their debt, that's enough for me. No one should have to consider healthcare costs as they decide how to manage their health. And yet, 1 in 2 people don't go to the doctor when they're sick to avoid debt. In a perfect country, we wouldn't need to have this conversation. But in America, we do.

 

For a lot of people, especially people with chronic illnesses like myself, medical debt is an incredible burden. It can cause issues with procuring housing and getting a new job. It increases the likelihood of litigation and bankruptcy and can even worsen health outcomes for many people who are already ill. (Sycamore Institute, 2021) These people coach baseball teams, run small businesses, and raise families. They're your family, coworkers, and friends.

This walk is for them. This walk is for me. 

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I'm no stranger to endurance events. Here, I'm at the finish line of a 32 mile paddleboard race down the Tennessee River in the freezing rain. I was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis a year earlier.

ABOUT THE 
RIP MEDICAL DEBT
FOUNDATION
(A NON-PROFIT 501 (C)(3) ORGANIZATION)

 

The RIP Medical Debt Foundation is an established non-profit that's relieved millions of their burdensome medical debt in a unique way.

In America, approximately 79 million people have unpaid medical bills according to the health nonprofit the Commonwealth Fund. And in many cases, that debt is not held by the hospital or doctor’s office that the patient originally visited. Instead, that debt is typically bought and sold several times over to collections agencies.

When debt is sold multiple times, it’s usually sold at a discount because it can be increasingly difficult for the collection agency to get paid. That represents an opportunity for RIP Medical Debt to swoop in and purchase the portfolios at a steep discount: a penny on the dollar. This means that our donations can go even further.

 

The unpaid bills have typically passed through several collection agencies and months of collections. The people, who do not know they have been selected, receive the debt relief as a tax-free gift, and it comes off their credit reports. They are then notified by R.I.P by mail.

R.I.P. Medical Debt specifically seeks to buy the debts of people who earn less than two times the federal poverty level, those in financial hardship and people facing insolvency.

Q&A

WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?
AREN'T YOU SICK?

Yes! But I wholeheartedly believe that it's important to keep pushing your own boundaries every day - whether that's preparing to take a shower or completing an endurance event. Exploring your limits is what makes life worth living.

WHY WALKING?

Walking is simple. Walking is human. Walking is - after a long distance - painful. I feel that walking is a good metaphor for chronic illness; it's a symbol for the power of the human mind.

WHO GETS THE
MEDICAL DEBT
RELIEF?

Priority will go to low-income households in Suffolk and Nassau County. After that, funds will be distributed to overdue accounts throughout the country. 

IS THERE A WAY TO TRACK YOUR PROGRESS?

Yes! I will be wearing a tracker throughout the walk to authenticate it. A link will be provided to all who sponsored and donated that will allow them to follow my progress! 

ARE YOU GOING
TO SLEEP?

My plan is to do as many miles as possible before sleeping. However, due to the distance, it's likely I will have to sleep in short bursts to avoid complications. 

ARE YOU TRAINING?

Absolutely! I'm following a multi-month training plan that will hopefully lead me to success when the time comes to put one foot in front of the other.

HOW CAN
I HELP?

Hey awesome human! There are three ways to help. If you're an individual, sponsor a mile for $40 by going here or donate any amount directly here.

If you're a business or corporate entity, help by becoming an elite sponsor here. Every dollar counts! 

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