Medical Issues and Bills Take Ephrata Family to the Brink

By on June 18, 2015

When you have your health, you have it all.

No one knows that better than Patrick Van Roy and his wife, Monica McGuire, of Ephrata. After years of medical treatments and health issues, they are fighting an uphill battle to get healthy, stay healthy and get their financial health back on track.

“When you have health problems, it takes a huge toll financially,” said Van Roy. “It all falls apart.”

At 54, Van Roy has worked since he was 11 years old. He’s worked in construction, with the airlines at Philadelphia Airport, at fishing and hunting stores and processing fruit gift baskets. He has never not worked, until now.

These days, Van Roy spends most of his time on the couch, bone tired and too exhausted to go out. Doctors suspect that he may have fibromyalgia, an arthritis-related autoimmune disease that causes extreme tiredness. He has already been diagnosed with Lyme disease, which likely came from a tick while he was out fishing or hunting. That too causes exhaustion.

Until the cause of his condition is determined and successfully treated, Van Roy cannot work. That means that the family that includes their teenaged daughters, Abigail and Sarah, have to live on McGuire’s salary as a sterile processor at Lancaster General Hospital.

It’s about a third of what they used to live on. And it’s becoming harder and harder to keep up with the basic bills.

“We are way behind on our rent and our utilities,” says Van Roy. “I feel like I am drowning, but I am too tired to do anything. I feel helpless.”

The Van Roys landlord has been patient, but he can’t afford to let the family stay any longer. They are hoping to find a cheaper mobile home or apartment to rent.

Anything beyond the bare necessities is out of the question for the family, and the girls have had to make sacrifices. Their 18-year-old daughter works at a convenience store to help out. Her 15-year-old sister helps her father when she gets home from school, while her mother is at work.

Van Roy isn’t the only one in the family with medical issues. Three years ago, McGuire learned that she had the BRCA2 gene mutation that is a marker for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. With three family members who have had breast or ovarian cancer, Van Roy opted for breast and ovarian surgery to reduce her chances of getting the deadly diseases.

“It’s similar to what Angelina Jolie did. I wanted to be here for my family,” says McGuire.

Fortunately, the family has health insurance to help cover some of the medical costs. But it doesn’t cover all of it and the deductible is high. The biggest problem is the loss of income.

“I am afraid of being homeless,” admits Van Roy.

A little more than a year ago, Van Roy seemed fine. He had helped his wife recover from her surgery, and was busy working several jobs after his airline ramp job was downsized. Back then, Van Roy was overweight, at 205 pounds.

Suddenly, and without trying, he dropped 30 pounds in two months. Then he lost another 10 pounds in 10 days. Over four months, he had lost 60 pounds and dropped to 145 pounds.

“I was alarmed,” says McGuire. “I was scared. Doctors didn’t know what was wrong.”

Van Roy had trouble swallowing food and often told his wife that it felt like the food was stuck in his throat. He was eating less and less, and losing more weight.

Van Roy worried that he had colon cancer since he had a family history. He was relieved to learn that he had a disease that was not cancer. He had something he could barely pronounce &tstr; Achalasia.

Achalasia is a rare disease of the muscle of the esophagus, which is a “failure to relax.” With Achalasia, the lower esophageal sphincter muscle fails to open and let food pass into the stomach. As a result, patients with Achalasia have difficulty swallowing food.

The treatment for Van Roy’s condition was surgery with Philadelphia’s Dr. Phil Katz, a recognized expert in the rare condition. With medication and learning how to compensate for the inability to swallow, Van Roy is gaining some weight back gradually. He drinks a lot of protein shakes and juice foods so that he gets some nutrition. He also takes vitamins.

If that wasn’t enough for one family to bear, Van Roy has developed back problems. More than 30 years ago, when he was a young man, a building wall fell on him while he was doing construction work. He suffered numerous injuries to his back, arms and legs. He almost lost his foot. And he still has the scars.

His orthopedic doctor thinks his current back issues are related to that long-ago injury.

“It just keeps piling up,” says Van Roy, who still manages to stay upbeat.

The family is lucky to have friends and relatives to help them. Cavod Academy in New Holland has helped to raise funds for them. People are donating items and services. They are looking for more affordable housing. There has also been a GoFundMe account set up to help the family catch up with rent and utilitiy payments. They have been documenting those payments for those who donate whatever they can, even $20.

“I’m not one to give up. I have a great family and I have faith that this will all work out somehow,” says Van Roy.

The GoFundMe account for the Van Roys is at GoFundMe.com/helpvanroyfamily.

One Comment

  1. Patrick Van Roy

    June 19, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    Thank you Ms. Knowles, You did a wonderful story on our situation. My family and I are extremely grateful to for describing our situation with such kindness.

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