Cara Pressman, a 15-year-old-girl from New York, had two simple words to say to the insurance company that denied coverage for brain surgery that would save her from a life of seizures.
Pressman has been suffering from seizures for several years, so you could imagine how the teenager felt when her chance to recover from the condition was taken away from her.
That was Pressman's response to Aetna, her family's insurance provider, after the company denied coverage for brain surgery that would end her seizures.
Pressman has been having seizures since she was 9 years old, usually several times per week. Every time it hits, the teenager's body grows cold and starts shaking. She then zones out from between 20 seconds to two minutes, while she remains aware of what goes on around her. The seizures can be triggered by almost anything, including exerting herself, feeling stressed, and being happy, and Pressman described the experience as "having a nightmare but while you're awake."
The teenager thought that her seizures were coming to an end though. Doctors recommended Pressman to undergo a laser ablation surgery that will remove damaged tissues in her brain that they believe are causing the seizures. The doctors even scheduled the minimally invasive brain surgery on Oct. 23.
However, it was not meant to be. Three days before the surgery, Aetna told Pressman's parents that they were denying their family coverage for the teenager's laser ablation surgery. The insurance company said that the procedure was still experimental, and its effectiveness in treating seizures has not been established.
"Considering they're denying me getting surgery and stopping this thing that's wrong with my brain, I would probably just say, 'Screw you.'"
In the laser ablation procedure, surgeons will drill a small hole into Pressman's head and then use a laser to target and remove the damaged tissue. The alternative method, named temporal lobectomy and the one that Aetna covers, will involve the removal of a bigger portion of the teenager's skull to expose the brain matter that needed to be cut.
Studies, however, show mixed but promising results for laser abration surgery as a way to stop seizures. Some claim that the procedure is 75 percent effective in treating seizures that medication could not address.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved laser abration surgery, and the epilepsy community widely views the procedure as an effective option for treatment.
"I would not call it experimental at all," said Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon Dr. Jamie Van Gompel regarding laser abration surgery, adding that temporal lobectomy is more dangerous.