New Jersey parents helped by catastrophic illness relief fund want to spread the word

 Old Bridge resident Michelle Hansen and her son, Ryan, attend ceremonies at the New Jersey Statehouse to highlight the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund.(Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Old Bridge resident Michelle Hansen and her son, Ryan, attend ceremonies at the New Jersey Statehouse to highlight the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund.(Phil Gregory/WHYY)

A fund that helps New Jersey residents pay for costly medical care for their children has awarded more than $3.5 million in grants in the first half of this budget year.

Some of the 369 recipients gathered at the Statehouse in Trenton last week to share their stories.

 

Old Bridge resident Michelle Hansen said her son, Ryan, was hospitalized for 112 days after a brain aneurysm and 10 surgeries that left him with a synthetic skull.

Hansen’s health insurance didn’t cover many of the expenses associated with Ryan’s care, and the family was left with hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills.

“There is no way our income can ever pay these enormous outstanding bills. Ryan will continue to require extensive medical care and therapy in the future,” she said. “Thank God for my mother-in-law who found out about the relief fund from a co-worker and that we qualified for their assistance.”

East Windsor resident Dennis Rosenthal was another grant recipient who met with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno to call attention to the program.

His daughter Moria had 16 rounds of chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, and experimental treatment after being diagnosed with neuroblastoma cancer.

With $25,000 to $30,000 in medical bills coming in every week, Rosenthal said he got help from the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund.

“We were this close to bankruptcy, to declaring bankruptcy with a child with cancer,” he said. “We didn’t have to do that, and Moria is getting better. I can’t say thank you enough for what they’ve done for us.”

The families who gathered at the Statehouse said they hope the event will increase awareness about the fund so other parents can get help.

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