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Carrollwood Family Visiting Capitol Hill to Advocate for Kid's Health Care

The family left for Washington, D.C., on Sunday to talk to government officials about pediatric health care and share their daughter's story.

When their 2-year-old daughter developed a fever in 2009, Carolina Leon and Robert Galban figured she had contracted the swine flu virus.

So they rushed Lucy to St. Joseph's Children's Hospital. A family member cared for Lucy's older brother, Robert, while Lucy and her parents waited for doctors to diagnose her.

"They did tests, and thought she might be anemic," said Robert Galban. "We were in the hospital throughout the weekend."

On Monday morning, doctors broke the news to Lucy's parents.

Lucy, then 26-months-old, had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

"That was when the world ended," recalled Galban. "It's been two and a half years, and I'm still at a loss for words ... It's an overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety. It's nothing you can prepare for."

Without health insurance, the Carrollwood family immediately applied for and received Medicaid.

Now, with Lucy in remission, they're making a trek to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., this week to talk to government officials about the importance of children's health care as part of the Children’s Hospital Association’s Family Advocacy Day.

St. Joseph's Hospital is footing the bill for the July 23-25 trip, said Lisa Patterson, communications manager at St. Joseph's Hospital. The family plans to meet with Florida representatives in Congress that include Bill Nelson, Kathy Castor, Gus Bilirakis, Richard Nugent, Dennis Ross and C.W. Bill Young, Patterson said.

"It's one thing to say Medicaid is the largest payer of children's health services, but they will be able to hear Robert and his family talk about what that mean to them," Patterson said. "Where would they be if it weren't for Medicaid?"

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At the time of Lucy's diagnosis, Galban, 32, was working in restaurant management, and his wife, who is 30, was a provider relations consultant for an insurance company. Galban said the family didn't have health insurance, and were "just trying to get by."

To be at the hospital for Lucy's care, Galban and his wife adjusted their work schedules and leaned on family members in north Tampa to care for Lucy's brother.

But chemotherapy took its toll on the usually happy little girl.

Her dark hair fell out. She gained 10 pounds and then lost it. She vomited often.

Good news came earlier this year, when doctors took Lucy, now 4 years old, off chemotheraphy on Jan. 20.

She has a 90 percent chance of never having to be on chemotherapy again, said Galban, who said Lucy is now being insured by Florida KidCare. Doctors monitor her blood levels once a month by poking her tiny finger.

The family was approached by Patterson about going on the trip to D.C.

Galban hopes the family's time there will allow them to tell Lucy's story and encourage lawmakers to avoid cuts to Medicaid.

"You never would imagine you have to deal with something of this nature," he said. "When Lucy was diagnosed, she didn't have health insurance, we're thankful for the ability to have services through the government like Medicaid."

To contact the Galban family, email Robert at robert.galban@hotmail.com.

Are you concerned about cuts to Medicaid? Let us know in the comments section.

Camille C. Spencer July 23, 2012 at 02:14 PM
@Grace: Thanks for reading!
Noreen Klein July 23, 2012 at 03:53 PM
I pray the meeting goes well. Families such as Lucy's should be able to obtain the medical attention their children need.
Carolina Leon - Lucy's Mom July 24, 2012 at 02:01 AM
We feel blessed to be here in DC with our healthy little girl. There are many families who don't have the same outcome with their childen with Cancer. We will always be grateful for the excellent care given to our family by St Joseph's Children's Hospital.
robertmulvey July 24, 2012 at 09:58 AM
Healthcare is not subject to normal market forces! Anything that you have to buy at any random moment in order not to die is not something to which a rational supply/demand calculus can apply. Check out "Penny Health" articles on how to reduce the cost of insurance.
Ken Hanlon July 25, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Having gone through a similar situation with my grandson, we can totally understand the importance of having health-care for our children.My grandson was lucky to have had the coverage through private insurance but many don't. Nothing is more devastating than seeing your child with a serious illness & not be able to get them the help they need.All our politicians see to it that they have the BEST health coverage money can buy at the taxpayers expense. They can well afford to pay for it on their own but they have the taxpayer pay for it.To reduce it for those that can't ,is a sin .

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