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Alberta family with sick child devastated by Christmas layoff: ‘We’re going to lose everything’

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WATCH ABOVE: A family from Leduc was stunned when their benefits suddenly stopped paying for their sick daughter's chemotherapy to treat an inflammatory disease, only to then learn her father had been laid off just days before Christmas. Sarah Ryan shares their desperate plea for help – Dec 23, 2020

Leduc resident Kenneth Rodgers found out he was laid off just three days before Christmas — meaning he lost the benefits coverage that paid for his daughter’s chemotherapy infusions.

Kenneth’s 17-year-old daughter, Nicole Rodgers, has severe juvenile arthritis, a bowel disorder and an inflammatory disease called PFAPA.

“Nicole is immune compromised,” her mom, Tina Rodgers explained.

“She has been pulled out of school since Grade 4. She wasn’t sick from birth: it just happened overnight and it went downhill from there.”

To help manage her pain, she gets low-dose chemotherapy infusions every three weeks. The treatment for the inflammatory disease is not covered under basic health care.

On Tuesday, her parents got a strange call from her nurse at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, inquiring about Kenneth’s health benefits.

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“She said ‘Unfortunately, they’ve refused payment for the drug.’ And I said, ‘I don’t understand? We have really good coverage, my husband is a foreman,” Tina said.

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Right away, Kenneth reached out to his employer’s benefits provider, Blue Cross, hoping there was some mistake.

Instead, he said the representative gave him news he never saw coming, telling him his employer terminated his benefits on Dec. 18th — the same day his Christmas vacation started.

“Then panic sets in, because why? Why would they terminate coverage?” Tina said.

Kenneth has worked as a hydrovac foreman for a construction company for nearly three years. He called them looking for an explanation.

“My employer explained to me that they forgot to tell me I was laid off.”

Instead of offering apologies, or trying to rectify the situation, Kenneth said they told him to come in and clean out his things.

“We can live, same as everybody else — or most people in Alberta — cheque to cheque. But we were surviving.

“Without the benefits, there’s nothing we can do. We’re going to lose everything. We’re going to go under fast.”

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Without health benefits, Nicole’s infusions cost nearly $3,000 a month. Her parents said if they had any prior notice of the layoff, they could have pre-ordered her chemo.

“Without the medication she just stops walking,” Kenneth said.

“She can’t move, every joint in her body is so painful. The illness then takes over and starts affecting her vital parts.”

Nicole’s next treatment is slated for New Year’s Eve. The family says they now have no way of paying for it, or for her mental health supports.

“Now, with what has just happened, I had to message her psychologist to say she won’t be able to have her appointments, because we don’t have coverage for that either,” Tina said, wiping tears from her eyes.

“For them to be aware that we have a daughter that relies on these medications to survive, to live, to function — to go ahead and do this and not even let him know? It turns my stomach.”

The Rodgers said they’ve already called their bank and the company their car payments are run though  and neither would offer them deferrals — saying those COVID-19 pandemic-related supports are no longer available.

“We’re sitting here wondering where her next treatment’s going to come from,” Tina cried. “We just feel very hurt.”

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READ MORE: Santa stops by Stollery Children’s Hospital to drop off presents for patients

The family says Nicole’s medical team is trying to provide support, but it’s tricky with Christmas.

“Now you’re having these doctors and these nurses trying to reach out to places that are closed for the holidays, they can’t get ahold of people,” Tina said.

As a last resort, the family is asking for help on Gofundme. As of Wednesday at 5 p.m., about $2,000 had been raised — nearly enough to pay for the New Year’s Eve infusion.

As of Thursday morning, the fundraiser had brought in more than double the $50,000 goal.

“We’re going to survive and we’re going to get through this. Just right now, we’re down and we need a little help,” Kenneth said.