Main content

    Jose's story about emergency gallbladder surgery

    Fifty-eight-year-old Jose Dueñas of Oakland has always worked hard to support his family, first in the fields, and then for 23 years at a large grocery store. His daughter describes him as “the rock of our family—and the one who holds us together.”

    The night that Jose began to experience stomach pains, he thought he had a case of indigestion. His wife offered him a few home remedies, and he expected to soon feel better. But instead, the pain grew much worse. By the third day, his discomfort was so severe that he was doubled over. That is when his daughter took him to the emergency room at Sutter-affiliated Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.

    Once there, he underwent tests and learned that the source of his pain was his gallbladder. The doctors explained that, with immediate surgery, his pain should be relieved. But Jose had no medical insurance, and he was worried.

    He explained his situation to the hospital medical team. “I asked them, ‘What am I going to do, how am I going to pay for this?’” He immediately began thinking of ways he could afford the medical care, including refinancing or selling his house. But the staff members at Alta Bates Summit were warm and reassuring. “They told me, ‘Don’t worry about it right now. First we need to treat you,’” Jose remembers.

    Meanwhile, his daughter Veronica was also trying to work out payment terms. “I walked up to the reception area and gave them all my credit cards,” she says. “They pushed the credit cards aside and said, ‘Don’t worry about that right now. The important thing is to get your father in and have him seen immediately.’”

    Jose underwent surgery promptly, and when he woke up, the disabling pain was gone. “I woke up and saw the doctor and I grabbed his hand and said, ‘Thank you, doctor because I’ve had the pain for three days!’” He was further elated to learn that the cost of his surgery and hospital care—totaling $47 thousand—would be completely covered under the hospital’s charity care program.

    “When they told me that I qualified, I had no words. I felt really happy,” Jose says. “I couldn’t believe it was happening! My daughter, of course, felt really happy, too—and my wife even happier. I couldn’t believe it,” he adds.

    Today, Jose is in fine health, and is proud to report that he now has medical insurance and is a loyal Sutter Health patient. He continues to work and care for his family and enjoys spending time with his grandchildren. “Money is good and having a house is good, but if you don’t have health, then you can’t work and you can lose everything,” he reflects. “To the people that gave attention to me, I’m really thankful.”

    “I’m Jose Dueñas, and that’s my story.”