| Angie Howes, a head clerk at Raley’s 412 in Granite Bay, began experiencing severe migraine headaches in early 2008.
“At first I thought it was related to an old injury I had in 1991,” Howes recalled. “I had shoulder, back and neck pain from a fall. But when my headache symptoms got worse, I went to my doctor.”
After a series of MRIs and other tests, she was referred to doctors at UC San Francisco Medical Center.
“I was able to see the chief of neurosurgery,” she said. “He eventually diagnosed a disorder I had from birth called Arnold-Chiari malformation.”
Arnold-Chiari malformation is a rare genetic disorder in which parts of the brain are formed abnormally. The malformations usually occur in the lower portion of the brain (cerebellum) or in the brain stem.
“Mine was at the base of my skull,” Howes said. “The doctor said the hole where my brain stem goes into the lower part of my brain was too small and that I
would need surgery to correct it.
“No one likes to hear she needs surgery of any kind, let alone brain surgery,” she said. “I was naturally quite concerned.”
One thing she was not concerned about was paying for her medical care.
“I knew our Union-negotiated health benefits would take care of it,” Howes said. “I was able to go to a top-notch hospital with the best
doctors and not have to worry about going into debt.”
Howes eventually needed a second surgery to correct complications from the first one. She spent a total of 21 days in the hospital.
“I was told that the cost for the surgeries, the hospital stay and medication was more than $300,000,” Howes said. “I only had to pay a $500 deductible. The rest was taken care of. I don’t know what we would have done if we didn’t have our health benefits.”
Howes and her husband, Tom, who is self-employed, have six more reasons to be grateful for her health benefits: –– their six children ages 5 - 20.
“My oldest daughter, Danaris, recently had an accident while she was away at college,” Howes said. “She had a concussion and lost some teeth. Fortunately, she is still covered under my health insurance.”
Howes has fully recovered from her illness and feels fine.
“The headaches are gone, and I can enjoy my favorite hobby –– spending time with my family,” she said.