Amanda Sesio was on the trip of a lifetime and “like a giddy teenager running around airports” when she was left fighting for life in a US hospital.
The young woman from New Zealand had flown to Los Angeles by herself on July 24 to represent her family at a cousin’s wedding.
“Only I unfortunately didn’t make the wedding, despite fighting everyday to put on a brave face and hope I miraculously felt better the next day,” Ms Sesio wrote on Instagram.
Just a week after arriving in LA, she was carried by family members into the emergency department with “no clue of the rollercoaster that was to come.”
After struggling to breathe, Ms Sesio was diagnosed with pneumonia which led to hypoxemic respiratory failure, several blood infections and fluid on her lungs.
She was placed in ICU on life support and family feared the worst.
“It was a tough time for us to see Amanda alone in these circumstances,” her brother, Shane Tuala, wrote online.
“If anyone knows Amanda, they’ll know she has a heart of gold and is loved by many.”
Fortunately, in ICU under close observation, Ms Sesio slowly improved each day and is now back in New Zealand “on the road to recovery.”
“It was certainly the biggest challenge of my life,” the young woman said, “and [although] the rollercoaster has slowed down (praise the Lord) there are still a few bumps ahead.
“One being this very, very large number that is now my medical debt.”
Huge medical bill a timely reminder to others
After her lifesaving stint in Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, Ms Sesio has been left with a $200,000 bill.
Her illness has highlighted the often-extortionate medical system in the US and the importance of travel insurance when heading overseas.
"In many countries, medical treatment for visitors can be incredibly expensive," travel insurance specialists Insure And Go say, noting medical evacuations from the US can cost as much as $300,000.
"Having the right level of travel insurance cover is critical."
While Ms Sesio hopes her repayments can help honour, thank and remunerate the “amazing” specialists, doctors and nurses who saved her life, Ms Sesio says she’s had to turn to the public for their help.
“Well I knew this time would soon come,” she wrote in an Instagram post, “to be a little vulnerable.. and kindly ask for a helping hand.
“It hasn’t been easy learning to accept or ask for help, it’s certainly something that doesn’t especially come easy to us Pacific people.
“But for my family and myself it would mean the world if you would share my GoFundMe page, and please, feel no obligation at all but if you do feel so inclined to give, any amount at all is deeply appreciated by myself and my family.”
More than $20,000 has already been raised on the Go Fund Me page for Ms Sesio, which was set up by her brother, Shane Tuala, just six days ago.
Among the 355 donors who’ve dug deep, are two anonymous supporters who each put up $1,000.
Many have taken to the young Kiwi’s plight, including sympathetic Americans and kind strangers.
“As an American, I am sorry for this expensive medical bill,” one person wrote. “It is a different approach to healthcare.”
“Not a fan of the American healthcare system,” said another, “but I am glad you are alright.”
“Sorry to hear about you being so unwell,” added someone else, “however an ICU is the best place to be when that kind of support is needed. Don’t worry, it is just money.”
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