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Thanks to a Good Friend, Herndon High Student’s Medical Bill Paid Off

by Dave Emke January 10, 2017 at 11:30 am 29 Comments

Ryan Alcorn and Jonathan Rodriguez Chicas ('Primo')

His name is Jonathan Chicas. But his friends call him “Primo.”

“‘Primo’ means ‘cousin’ in Spanish,” said Ryan Alcorn, a senior at Herndon High School and a Reston resident. “He’s like family.”

And when he was going through some tough times recently, his local “family” was there to help him out. He had fallen sick with pneumonia and was facing a seemingly insurmountable medical bill.

His worries were alleviated when the bill was covered in less than 24 hours, thanks to a GoFundMe page and a community that supports those in need.

“I was sure that I was going to need to leave school to pay this,” Jonathan said. “Wow, I was so happy.”

Jonathan, a junior at Herndon High School, came to the U.S. with his family from El Salvador. Living in Herndon, they sometimes have trouble making ends meet. To pay the bills, Jonathan sometimes has to help out by doing odd jobs.

Recently, he was working on a concrete job in unfriendly weather.

“It was cold — very, very cold,” he said.

It wasn’t long after that he started to feel sick — very, very sick.

“I was sneezing and I was getting headaches,” he said. “The next day, it was getting worse.”

Jonathan tried to fight the illness without taking medicine or going to the doctor. Instead, he visited the school clinic.

“I didn’t want to go to the hospital, because I knew it was going to be very, very expensive,” he said, adding that he does not have health insurance.

After a few days, his health turned from bad to worse.

“I went to the clinic and I told the nurse that now I was feeling miserable,” he said. “I went to the bathroom and I was vomiting, and I saw some red spots, and I knew it was blood.”

An ambulance was summoned to transfer Jonathan to the emergency room. He spent a morning there, where he received a pneumonia diagnosis. He was given antibiotics and quickly felt better. After about a week of recovery, he was good as new.

That is, until the bill arrived.

“Just from the hospital, not including the ambulance, it was $4,196.75,” he said. “For three hours.”

Jonathan felt sick again, this time for another reason.

“We were supposed to have dinner, and I wasn’t hungry at all,” he said. “I had lost it, to be honest.”

Ryan had been used to hearing from “Primo” regularly. They spent a lot of time together after becoming friends in personal fitness class.

When he hadn’t seen his friend around or heard from him for several days, he texted to ask what was going on.

“He was like, ‘Aww man, I was really sick,'” Ryan said. “He didn’t really go into detail, so I was just like, ‘All right, I’m glad you’re feeling better.'”

But when Jonathan brought the bill over to show Ryan, the true scope of the problem came to light.

“He looked really depressed, and that was something I’d never really seen before,” Ryan said. “I kept telling him on the way home, ‘I think everything’s going to be all right, it’s going to be OK.’ But I knew at that point he didn’t believe me, and I don’t know if I totally believed myself.”

Jonathan’s mother makes $380 a week at her job, and his dad makes some cash here and there through handyman work, but not much in the winter. In addition to helping to pay the bills, Jonathan sends money back to El Salvador to help his grandmother.

“I kind of know his financial situation, about having to pay other bills,” Ryan said. “The amount of work he has to put in just to get by is incredible.”

Ryan floated the idea of a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to pay the bill.

“I knew, just from the people that Jonathan is friends with and people he’s met, they all love him,” he said. “I knew they would come out and support him.”

Jonathan wasn’t as optimistic, but Ryan was able to convince him. The page launched Jan. 4.

And it took off, Ryan said.

“At first it was people we knew, good friends of Jonathan, and then it was people who had heard about him or just heard the story, and they all wanted to get involved,” he said. “That’s truly a testament to this community that we have here. I knew there were some really great people, but I didn’t realize how much support they could bring for someone they barely knew. I just thought that was awesome.”

From the GoFundMe page:

“Our friend Jonathan, known to many as ‘Primo’ needs our help. In early December Jonathan caught pneumonia and despite trying to soldier through it, he ended up in the Emergency Room. Primo doesn’t have insurance and he’s now facing a staggering medical bill. In addition to being a student a Herndon High School, Jonathan works multiple jobs to support himself and his family. He’s considering dropping out to take on yet another job to pay this bill. If we can all pitch in, even a little bit, we might be able to cover the expenses and keep Primo on the path to graduation. If you know Primo, you know just how wonderful a guy he is. He needs our help. Please consider donating today.”

Donations of $10, $50, $100 and more came pouring in. The GoFundMe page hit its $4,197 goal within a day, and the total has now risen to nearly $5,000.

The money is currently in a special account, being handled by Ryan’s mother, Kristina. It will soon be transferred to pay the bill in full, with some cash left over to help Jonathan’s other expenses.

Jonathan said he is hopeful that he can pursue a career in the U.S. Marine Corps once he is done with school. He is involved in the ROTC program at Herndon High and he has been talking with a recruiter about making his dream a reality.

“(I’d be) serving the country that has helped me,” he said. “I just want to protect my family and my friends, so they can have the rights that they have.”

Ryan said that selfless determination is further proof of the type of human being “Primo,” his “cousin,” is.

“He’s just a nice guy, really kind,” Ryan said. “He really is loved by this community.”

  • Tom H

    You are a great friend and role model Ryan!

  • Arielle in NoVA

    What a nice story! Hope Primo stays in good health.

  • Anonymous friends

    What a great story. I know what it’s like to not have health insurance, and until a few years back it wasn’t affordable, even with a decent job. Glad to see your friends and community able to help. I raise my glass in “Salud” to your good health, family, friends, and community.

    • Greg

      And it (health care) is affordable now?

      Money grows on trees, right?

      • The Constitutionalist

        It’s affordable now because we pay the rest of their bill. Whether we like it or not, unfortunately.

        • Chuck morningwood

          I know thanks very much

          • The Constitutionalist

            That’s a relief. I wouldn’t want anyone to go without knowing who is paying their bills.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            Thanks. Now I don’t have a job or even look for one, but I have health insurance.

          • The Constitutionalist

            Well, you do deserve it after all. It is the least I can do.

          • Chuck Morningwood

            Well I’m glad you think so too.

  • Mike M

    Fortunately, Obamacare took care of our health insurance challenges in this country.

    • Why do you bother?

      Aren’t you getting chilly in that soggy blanket?

      • Erin Hannon

        I know he should just give it a rest

        • Mike M

          IKR!

    • Bob

      https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/resources/primers/medicaidmap

      Virginia’s wonderful Republican-controlled state legislature has rejected the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, which may have helped this guy. Nice try but you should try pointing your fingers in the right direction.

      • Mike M

        Psst! Obamacare did not solve so many problems as it caused. Repeal and replace!

        • Bob

          If “Primo” lived in a state with a democratically-controlled legislature that accepted the ACA’s Medicare coverage expansion, his family would have health insurance and this entire situation wouldn’t have existed. It seems to me that Republicans have been deliberately torpedoing the ACA (“Obamacare” to you I guess) in order to support their argument that it is a failure.

          • Greg

            Obamacare is a failure. There is the billion-dollar website launch debacle waste; the 17 “co-ops” that have collapsed; the ever increasing premiums; the ever decreasing choices; the failures of the young and the healthy to participate; unaffordable out-of-pocket costs and on and on.

            And, of course, Primo is free to live in any state he wants. He chooses to live in VA and, thankfully, has freedom to move.

            Most notable is that Pirmo’s health care issues were resolved without any assistance of the government or taxpayers in general.

            http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2016/04/year-six-of-the-affordable-care-act-obamacares-mounting-problems

          • Mike M

            You assume too much. You also seem to believe the federal government is a giant piggy bank for endless handouts.

          • Bob

            In what ways am I assuming too much? Back yourself up Mike. Luckily you don’t need to assume anything about what I think – the Medicaid expansion is already paid for! Virginia’s genius GOP legislature is refusing free money, in the name of partisanship, which could’ve helped Primus’s family as well as others.

          • Greg

            You, sir, need to back up what you assume:

            “…the Medicaid expansion is already paid for!”

          • Bob

            I was talking to Mike M, not you, sir. But I’ll google for you just this once.

            “Because the federal government funds nearly all of the cost of Medicaid expansion, the 19 states that haven’t yet expanded coverage are missing out on nearly $364 billion in federal funding between 2013 and 2022, if they continue to reject Medicaid expansion…For residents of states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, their federal tax dollars are being used to pay for Medicaid expansion in other states, while none of the Medicaid expansion funds are coming back to their own states. From 2013 to 2022, $152 billion in federal taxes will be collected from residents in states not expanding Medicaid, and will be used to fund Medicaid expansion in other states.”
            Source: https://www.healthinsurance.org/medicaid/

            People are already paying taxes for it and the Republicans in VA are preventing Virginia residents’ OWN MONEY (yours too, Greg!) from coming back into their state.

          • Greg
          • Bob

            Nothing I said is contradicted by your article.

            And please, the Daily Signal? They’re the mouthpiece of the Heritage Foundation, another partisan hackjob of a “source.” The article you linked only cites Heritage foundation studies and Republican pundits. “We are correct because we say so!” I hope you see how that doesn’t make sense. Please get your news elsewhere.

          • Greg

            You can have your opinions, but not your facts. There were nothing but facts, proven facts, in the cited piece — all of which contradict your opinion.

            Nevertheless, it’s a fact that the US is running a $1 trillion and growing annual deficit. All of those are borrowed, not paid for, dollars, which makes your “news” that medicare expansion is paid for false.

            You, sir, need to get your facts. ASAP.

          • Mike M

            You assume they would have been covered. You assume that Obamacare was the right thing to so. Repeal and replace!

  • Why do you bother?

    It’s nice to see people not acting like a$$holes for a change. Good job, Ryan! Good job, Herndon!

  • Laura

    Pre-Obamacare: If you were self-employed, unemployed, or your employer didn’t offer health insurance, it was often quite difficult to get health insurance. Our family was turned down by two companies because of a health problem our child had at birth, although we provided a doctor’s letter attesting that the condition would not recur. If you never dealt with this kind of situation, you should not be allowed to post snarky online comments about Obamacare, or to repeal it without a replacement ready to begin immediately.

    • Greg

      We were there. We gave up self-employment, unemployment and stingy employers and now work for a company that pays for health care.

      No government actions, 1000-plus-page laws that pelosi didn’t understand, fines, taxes, penalties, complicated tax returns, failed billion-dollar websites, 13+ failed co-ops / exchanges or ages-long waits for visits to the dysfunctional VA health care system required at all.

      We make choices in life and thankfully had those options before obamacare.

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