The fight before the fight of her life

August 20, 2009 2:27:16 PM PDT
As the health care debate sweeps our nation, a local couple shares their struggles. It's the story of how lives can change in just a moment or two. As Jack Landers went from employed to uninsured without warning, his wife became very ill. As things looked like they could not get any worse, there came a dramatic turn of events.

When we first met Jack and his wife, Judy Hayes, earlier this week, they were facing a mountain. In April, Jack lost his job as a manager at a rental construction company.

"I was devastated," he said.

Three months later with no warning, Judy dropped to the floor from a brain seizure.

"My arm started tingling very strangely," she recalled.

The hair salon manager, who still has limited use of her left arm, had been on her husband's insurance. Doctors diagnosed her with a glioblastoma brain tumor. While there is no cure, chemotherapy and radiation can extend her life.

"I'm trying my best to stay with her and do everything I can for her," said Jack. "But it's tough. I love her."

The couple thought they were eligible for Cobra coverage, a federal act that gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits temporary coverage. When they contacted the company, they say they were told the deadline had expired. They say they never received any information.

"If we had got the packet, we would have elected the insurance," said Landers.

"I think you should be given the chance to fight for your life," said Landers.

Just a day before the couple was going to court with Landers' former employer, there was a new development. A spokesperson for the company returned our calls.

"The parties have reached an amicable settlement with respect to the matter," Equipment Depot Spokesperson Michael Munz told us. "Ms. Hayes looks forward to starting her chemotherapy and radiation treatment as soon as possible."

On Tuesday, Judy said without insurance, she wouldn't have a chance to fight.

"We're so ecstatic that we can't hardly put it into words," said Judy.

"We're very relieved this has come to an end," added Jack.

And now she says she is ready for the treatment she hopes will give her a fighting chance.

"Five years from now, she'll still be running her salon," said Jack.

Judy is just waiting for a phone call for her first appointment at MD Anderson to begin chemotherapy.

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