Hogan Gorman

Hogan Gorman was a healthy 20-something in 2004, hoping the universe would bring some change to her life as an aspiring actress and model and cocktail waitress.

As she was walking to work on March 4, her wish was answered, although not in the way she anticipated. Hogan was hit by a car going 40 miles an hour.

The accident should have killed her — at least that’s what paramedics and physicians said. There were times in the coming months and years that Hogan almost wished it had.

Without health insurance, Hogan was sent home with five herniated discs, an injured knee and a brain injury that would leave her virtually without a short-term memory for a year.

Barely able to get out of bed, Hogan lost her job. She went through her savings and has to take out loans against a court settlement she hoped would come soon. It would take two years.

Meanwhile, she had to sign up for food stamps, Medicaid and Social Security Disability.

Rather than have surgery to correct all five herniated discs, Hogan opted for steroid injections. But the injections caused kidney stones, which she suffered with for days before finally going to the emergency room.

The last thing people with no health care and no money want to do is to incur more medical expenses, but the pain and vomiting were unbearable. When she learned the steroid injections likely caused the problem, Hogan stopped going for the injections.

The food stamps gave her $4.70 a day for food, and Hogan lost a lot of weight. When her card stopped working suddenly on a Friday afternoon, the store clerk made her put back the few food items she had gathered. She was forced to eat rice and ketchup over the weekend. When she finally was able to speak to someone at the department of social services, the woman insisted the card was fine and threatened to call security to get Hogan out of the office.

That was the day Hogan hit bottom; it also was the day she began her climb back up.

Hogan endured unspeakable pain along with the humiliations she suffered at the hands of people who were supposed to be helping her. One doctor who was examining her to see if she qualified for disability told her to remove a dressing on her knee from surgery just a day earlier. When she told him her surgeon told her not to take it off, he labeled her as uncooperative. Fortunately for her, she was approved in just 10 months — a shorter than average wait. The $700 a month was nowhere near enough for her to live on, though.

Although she still has five herniated discs, Hogan has learned to control the pain with meditation, daily therapy exercises and gentle chiropractic.

“I have to stay on top of it,” she says.

Hogan Gorman's book, "Hot Cripple" is $16. For more information, visit www.hotcripple.com.

Through her ordeal, Hogan tried to maintain her sense of humor, and the book she wrote about her experience, “Hot Cripple,” ($16, Perigee Books) documents her overall success. She describes herself as an incurable smart-ass, and attributes that quality to her success in her journey back to health.

The experience made Hogan an outspoken critic of the US health care system.

“It is so unbelievably broken” she said. “We have to remove the death grip insurance companies have on our system and on our politicians.”

Hogan worries about people going through the system now — even people who have insurance but still pay huge out-of-pocket expenses in the form of deductibles and co-pays.

“Insurance premiums are rising three times as fast as the cost of living,” she said.

Each year, more people lose their coverage, and with it, access to care.

Hogan supports the Affordable Care Act as a first step toward fixing the system.

“Is it perfect? No, but it’s a start,” she said.

Like others, Hogan is waiting eagerly for the Supreme Court to release its decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

“We’ll see what happens,” she said. “But if they strike it down, the whole election is going to be about this.



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It's official! We are WNC Health Advocates.
Please visit our new web site, Visit WNC Health Advocates
The new name reflects what we do -- advocate for health care for everyone and help people access and navigate our current health care system.
While we still hold onto the memory and the generous spirit of Mike Danforth, we need people to be able to see our name and understand who we are.

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We need your help now more than ever. Your tax-deductible donation will help us get Patient Pals and Family Friends to more people in need of peer support. Please consider a gift in honor or in memory of a loved one.
Donate here or mail your donation to Life o' Mike, PO Box 1213, Asheville, NC 28802.

Patient Pals & Family Friends

Life o' Mike has a peer support program for people with one or more serious or chronic medical issues or disabilities.

We aim to reduce isolation and fear among people who have conditions, including psychiatric illness, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, mild dementia or other cognitive disorder or disability, thereby reducing depression and complications as people learn to improve self-management of their medical conditions.

Patient Pals help alleviate feelings of isolation and frustration. They can help people develop a list of questions to ask the doctor and then accompany the person to the doctor to make sure all the questions are answered, taking notes to be sure the person understands the doctor’s answers.

Our trained volunteers also accompany their “Pals” to art exhibits, movies and walks outdoors, meet for coffee, call to check in and more.

Our Pals have experienced weight loss, improvement in diabetes, HIV, psoriasis, depression and more, just because they have someone who cares about them. Some relationships develop into longer-term friendships; other Pals move on to more independent lives.

Family Friends are there to help caregivers and other family members grow into their new role.

We need volunteers, who are asked to donate a minimum of one hour a week. Training is free and includes information on active listening, ways to help and when to know more help is needed.

And of course, we need funding.

To learn more, call Leslie Boyd at 828-243-6712 or e-mail lifeomike@gmail.com.

Life o’ Mike honors Joe Eblen

Life o' Mike presented its first Michael T. Danforth Community Service Award to Joe Eblen at a luncheon on June 8, in the Friendship Hall of First Congregational Church, 20 Oak St., Asheville.
Joe, seen here with Leslie Boyd, left, and his wife, Bobbie, has spent his life helping children and families, both as a coach and game official for more than 60 years, and as founder of Eblen Charities.

Start From Seed

Life o' Mike has a new program- Start from Seed (SFS).
SFS is a volunteer doula program aimed at providing non-medical, comprehensive support to low income, high-risk women and families of Buncombe County focusing on three areas:

1. We help new doulas with certification and training in return for their participation as a volunteer doula for SFS

2. We mentor volunteer doulas with their first few clients

3. Our volunteer doulas provide birth and postpartum doula services to low income, high risk moms, providing support and tools to empower them as a new parent.

A birth doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; a postpartum doula provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

Start from Seed clients are referred to us from the Buncombe County Department of Health’s Nurse-Family Partnership Program, Western North Carolina Community Health Services, and Mission Hospital. The Program is intended and designed for growing clients’ inner strength and helping them gain empowerment to help them cope with the emotional, physical and mental challenges of childbirth, labor, and motherhood.

Our new moms and their infants have many needs. If you would like to help them get off to a good start, please visit our Start from Seed web site: Start from Seed, or call Program Director Chelsea Kouns at 804-814-9946.

Events in the community

Free birth and labor classes

Peaceful Beginning Doula Services holds free birth forums, Peaceful Birth, 6:30-8 p.m. the last Thursday of every month (except November) at Spa Materna, 640 Merrimon Ave., above The Hop, in Asheville.
All are welcome, expectant women and their partners are encouraged to attend anytime during their pregnancy. We also encourage doulas and other maternal/child professionals to attend and share in the discussions. The forums are "birth circle" style, focusing on normal birth which follows the Lamaze Six Care Practices for Healthy Birth. The forums are led by certified and experienced educators.

NAMI Family-to-Family Class

NAMI of Western Carolina holds 12-week classes for families and caregivers of individuals with a severe mental illness 6-8:30 p.m. Mondays at Charles George VA Medical Center, 1100 Tunnel Road in Asheville. The course covers major mental illnesses and self-care. Registration required. Info at 828-299-9596 or rohaus@charter.net.

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