By Ananda Shorey
WASHINGTON – After nine orthopedic surgeries, 10-year-old Adam Arnold has learned to follow a simple philosophy: If it has to be, it has to be.
But for Adam’s mother, Melissa, who is trying to raise two boys on less than $25,000 per year, life is more complicated.
“The major roadblock for us has been money,” said the Ellicott City mother. “Money seems to make it all happen.”
But even so, Arnold said she recently turned down a 20 percent raise because it would have boosted her income above the level at which the family qualifies for Medicaid. She said her other son, Daniel, 17, has had to pass up jobs to keep the family within eligibility limits.
“Medicaid takes care of all of Adam’s medical needs,” Arnold said. “We just need to make more to exist.”
Adam is scheduled to be on Capitol Hill Wednesday to support legislation aimed at making it easier for families like the Arnolds. The bill, introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., would replace an absolute income cap with a sliding scale that keys the level of Medicaid coverage to the level of income, according to Senate aides.
“What matters is that they (Grassley and Kennedy) are trying to help and make it easier for us to survive,” Arnold said. “Any help is going to be much appreciated.”
She said that in order to make ends meet she has had to accept charity from her parents and her church.
“Melissa is a very conscientious person,” said the Rev. Bruce Romoser of Bethel Baptist Church, the Ellicott City church the Arnolds have attended for three years. “She doesn’t like other people having to do things for her.”
But Arnold said she doesn’t have a choice. Adam will have his 10th surgery this year for a rare birth defect known as proximal femoral focal deficiency, or short thighbone, which can be crippling.
Arnold’s mother, Jean, said that she and her husband try to help out as much as possible, but they are on Social Security themselves and are only able to do so much. She said she has seen her daughter face struggle after struggle and knows she needs more financial help.
Jean Arnold said that without Adam, Melissa would not be able to cope with what the family has gone through. She said Adam apologizes for his condition and worries whether his mother is all right.
“He is a brave little boy,” Jean said. “Each and every time Melissa has tried to get surgeries it has been a struggle. For the average citizen it is extremely expensive and he has to have them or else he would be extremely crippled.”
Romoser said that Arnold has struggled just trying to keep her head above water. He said a change in Medicaid eligibility limits is needed for her, and others, to live a dignified life.
“It seems to me that this is a breakthrough not only for the Arnolds, but also for the rest of the nation because the Arnolds are all over the place, we just don’t hear about them,” he said.