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Patient's life hangs in the balance over budget balancing

Patient's life hangs in the balance over budget balancing

CREATED Jun 30, 2011

Reporter: Joel Waldman
Web Producer: Layla Tang

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - They say human life is priceless.  But, in Arizona, that's not necessarily the case anymore, since the state decided to cut funding for transplant patients.  That decision has left some people's lives hanging in the balance, including Courtney Parham, who suffers from an acute form of leukemia.

Courtney's leukemia is a deadly disease that came coupled with crippling side effects.  It has robbed her of the independence most 23-year-olds enjoy. 

"To be 23 and have my mom help me in the shower, that's a bad day," Courtney said.

"Courtney started with bone pain in her hip.  It woke her up in the middle of the night, like two or three o'clock in the morning.  This was September of 2006," said Cindy Straw, Courtney's mother.

This is Courtney's second bout with the disease.  Her first transplant was successful, but the results were short-lived.

"Because her type of leukemia was so aggressive they decided that she needed to have a transplant. So, she did have a dual cord transplant in January of 2007," said Straw.

That year, Courtney was a full time student and under her mother's insurance plan.  But, December 23rd, just two days before Christmas, word came that the cancer was back.

"You never ever think your kid is going to get leukemia and that it is going to come back four years later," added Straw.

But, one thing that didn't come back was the insurance.  The company dropped Courtney because she was too sick to be a full-time student, which forced her on to the Arizona Healthcare Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS.  And, then Governor Brewer dropped more bad news; no more transplants for patients like Courtney, all to help balance the budget. The Straw-Parham family told KGUN9 they must raise somewhere between $400-$800 thousand dollars for a transplant, or their daughter will die. 

"Would she [Gov. Brewer] put her own children's lives up to balance her budget?  I don't think so!" said Straw angrily.

"My mother isn't looking at me like a dollar sign.  But, in this situation, she sort of has to look at me like a dollar sign," said Courtney.

"How devastating is it as mother that you're dealing with dollar figures and your daughter's life?" asked 9 On Your Side's Joel Waldman.

"You cant even begin to explain that," Straw said, then she paused.  "What would a mother do to save her daughter's life?"

Straw told KGUN9 her daughter only has a month or two before she must have that transplant. There's a message on a board in Courtney's hospital room that reads, "The person who wants to do something finds a way; the others find excuses."  Straw says they will find a way to pay for this transplant.  Straw told Waldman the procedure only takes between 10-15 minutes; where Courtney would get an injection of healthy bone marrow. But, with the governor's cuts there's a chance she might not get those few precious minutes.  The family is working to raise money and plans to dip into their 401k to help pay for it.