Navigating the Health Care System

This page features stories focusing on the complexity of the health care system, the problems encountered with eligibility and enrollment, the challenges of billing, extensive wait times and paperwork. Listen to these stories, visit our Featured Stories page, or search for stories by topic or by location.


Debbie Higgs

My name is Debbie, and I am a yoga practitioner and teacher. I maintain a healthy lifestyle that focuses on clean eating, exploring the outdoors, and yoga. Most would assume from all physical appearances that I am a healthy woman in her mid-twenties, but I have a hidden disability.



Lares – Alamosa, CO

LaresF - Alamosa, COLares, of Alamosa, shares her health story. She shares her anxieties around navigating the health care system, finding the right provider, and the need for more humanity in health care.

“I think that [in] our health care system, because it’s just so massive, that personal connection and the humanity of it gets lost really easily.”


Cheryl – Chaffee County

Cheryl describes Cheryl_Squareher experience working with her two siblings to identify a quality long term health care facility for their mother who has dementia.  While there was information available to assist them, Cheryl and her siblings found themselves in a very demanding situation.

“What I think was sad about that, though, was that we were so inundated with the practical matters that it was difficult to deal with what was going on in our family, the dynamic of our family.  You know, our mother was, for all intents and purposes, gone.”


Denali – Denver, CO

denalijohnsonDenali, of Denver, shares her story of a serious ski accident and the subsequent search for quality care while covered under her family’s military health plan.  Although she was able to access the military system, her care lacked consistency and coordination.

“I kept having these spasms and nobody really knew what was going on.  I had no consistent medical records and there was just no conversation between any of these providers that I had been seeing…”


Scott and Diane

Scott and Diane – Thorton, CO

Scott and Diane are married and have two teenage girls. Their private small company employers recently decided to stop offering health insurance options to employees. Suddenly faced with new health issues, the couple has experienced great difficulty locating an affordable health insurance option that would give Scott access to the prescription he needs.

“We were finally able to get insurance for our two children but for our entire family the health care that we’ve been aware of pretty much would be the difference of whether or not we pay for our mortgage or our health insurance.”

Don Jesus

Don Jesus – Durango, CO

Danny and Mariel, both La Plata County-based Community Health Workers, share the story of Don Jesus. Don Jesus was an elderly gentleman who was found on the ground of his trailer after three days of no water or food and in very bad condition.

“The truth is that Jesus is not only our client, but he is our friend… He is the one who brought us together, who brought this community together.”

Ken and Charlette

Ken and Charlette – Rocky Ford, CO

Ken and Charlette, residents of Rocky Ford, CO, share their stories of health care access and navigating the current system.

“I tell you what really irritates me, if we get a divorce, she could get Medicaid.  But we can’t get no help because we make just a few dollars too much.  So what do we do?  Do we get a divorce so she can get more help?  That’s a sad situation, and a lot of people do it.”


Jacque – Rocky Ford, CO

Jacque of La Junta, CO shares her health story.  She describes her experience with multiple sclerosis; the diagnostic process, living with disease, and applying for disability.

“I’m not defined by my disease; I’m defined by what I can do.”


Tesfahunega – Aurora, CO

Tesfahunega, an Aurora resident and member of the Ethiopian community describes his battle with congestive heart failure and no insurance.  He claims he uses the Emergency Room to seek treatment feels hurt by the lack of empathy amongst health care workers.

“And nobody cares, the way I see it they don’t care.  They see me going back and forth to the emergency room and should get me my insurance card.  They know I’m in trouble; its just there is nothing I can do.  But there is a lot they can do.”


Lamine – Summit County, CO

Lamine is an immigrant from Senegal, and a Summit County resident, who helps interpret and assist with paperwork for his community members.  He tells a story of his community members too scared of health care bills to seek out medical assistance.

I remember a friend of mine was waiting until the point he was crying to go to the doctor. I kept telling him “you need to go see the doctor.”  And he said “if they send me a bill how am I going to take care of my family?  All they know is sending bills, they not going to fix anything.”


Carlos – Summit County, CO

Carlos, a Summit County resident, talks about breaking his neck while playing high school football. He speaks about his subsequent care and rehabilitation.

“I would just be dreaming about running.  In my dream I would just freeze, then I would realize I was waking up because I’m paralyzed.”

Debbi Jo

Debbi Jo – Summit County, CO

Debbi Jo, a 29 year resident of Summit County, talks about her difficulties gaining access to health care after changing jobs.

“All the sudden [I] found myself without employment and without health insurance.  Which is very disappointing after paying 35 years of insurance premiums.”


Erich – Summit, CO

Eric is a thyroid cancer survivor and Summit County resident.  He talks about his struggle to receive proper care and the difficulty in moving forward with his treatment.

“The biggest disappointment I would say is the way that I as a patient felt I was treated when I was applying for these programs.  It was very frustrating because you felt they were just finding ways to brush you off to the side or that this place didn’t want to deal with you but we’ll recommend this place and maybe they can help you out.”


Betty- Summit County, CO

Betty is a breast cancer survivor and Summit County resident.  She talks about access to health care and the inability to get health insurance when you have a preexisting condition

“If I hadn’t had a preexisting condition I would have dropped it, but I knew theoretically that if I ever dropped it I couldn’t get back on another policy…because that’s the way it works today.”


Barb – Aurora, CO

Barb is an Aurora community member who is actively involved in Aurora Health Access and other community initiatives. She describes her bout with cancer and heart disease.

“I don’t know what countries like Great Britain, Canada do, but I do see the pros and cons of national healthcare.  I hope it helps people.  And its not that I want to see this as a socialized country, but we need to make sure that everyone has health which to me is a human right.”


Myrenna – Aurora, CO

Myrenna is an Aurora resident who fought for her son’s proper Asperger’s diagnosis and school placement. After several years of doctor’s visits, extensive paperwork, and conversations with school officials, she finally got him the help he deserved.  Now she hopes to increase awareness by sharing her HealthStory.

“The doctors in particular need to be educated in the knowledge that you have to be very careful how you communicate with children who have a developmental disability… children do get misdiagnosed because they won’t always understand.  My advice is EDUCATE YOURSELF.”