STEUBENVILLE - David Walulik describes his family as Catholic, Democrats and true believers in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
And later today his wife, Julie, will introduce President Barack Obama at a campaign rally at the Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati and tell the story about their son, Nathan.
"My wife was pregnant with our third child in 2009 and she went into premature labor in July. Nathan was born on July 28 and initially weighed a little over 2 pounds, but that dropped to 1.7 pounds within days. Within a few days after his birth Nathan developed what is called necrotizing entercolitis in his intestinal tract. This means that his intestinal tissue, in effect, died. He had two-thirds of his intestine removed through an emergency surgery to save his life. Following the surgery, he needed life support to breathe and he could not eat orally. On Aug. 5, the doctors told us that we had to choose whether to perform the surgery and that they would support our decision if we simply allowed him to die because his prognosis was so bad. Within days after the surgery, the doctors again informed us that we should consider whether to withdraw breathing life support. We actually considered it because the prognosis and the percentages of kids who recover was so small, but we did not," explained Walulik.
A BABY BOY — The Walulik family, including Julie and David and their daughters, Madeline and Jane, check on newborn Nathan shortly after his birth on July 28, 2009. Julie Walulik has been invited to introduce President Barack Obama today at a campaign rally in Cincinnati. -- Contributed
"Due to his intestinal issue, he had to be fed intravenously with a nutritional solution called TPN. The TPN solution, however, is extremely hard on the liver. We were faced with the situation that we could not reconnect his intestine and feed him orally for several months and the only way we could feed him in the meantime was through TPN, which would cause his liver to fail if we used it too long," continued Walulik.
"His liver went into failure in late September. Fortunately, our doctor at Children's Hospital was aware of a therapy using a drug called Omegavan," he said.
"Omegavan was not approved by the federal FDA, but we applied and received a waiver to use it because our situation was deemed sympathetic care. Our choice was to list him for liver transplant, which we were told was about 90 percent fatal or use this non-approved drug. The drug worked and his liver began to recover. Our surgeons performed a second surgery to reconnect his remaining one-third intestine to his anus and attempt to form a normal tract. He had a six-hour surgery on Nov. 2 and recovered. He then began to be fed orally and began gaining weight. He crested 5 pounds right before Christmas and was cleared to go home on Dec. 31. We brought him home on New Year's Day, 2010. I sat in a chair in the living room and watched college football for about 10 hours that day holding him, including Ohio State's Rose Bowl win over Oregon.," related Walulik.
"The reason we were able to bring him home on New Year's Day was my wife convinced our insurance company that it would be cheaper for them to send him home with us than keep him at the hospital at thousands of dollars a day. Anthem rented all of the feeding pumps and equipment needed to care for Nathan and then hired a private duty home nurse for one shift a day. My wife effectively took the other two shifts and we had a hospital ward set up in our living room for the next 14 months. He eventually came off of the daily feeding pump in October of 2010 and we had his feeding tube removed in September of 2011. And today he eats fairly normal food, but still has a supplemental formula he drinks," said Walulik.
"During all of this time,we were absorbing astronomical bills for his health care through our insurance. We came to discover that our health policy through my employer had a $5 million lifetime cap. Our doctors told us that this is actually a pretty good policy because a lot have lower caps. We blew through several million dollars in 2009 and we were certain that we would reach the $5 million limit before Nathan hit 3 years old. I am an attorney and Julie is a nurse and we live a comfortable higher middle class life. But we were considering putting our home into a trust because we were faced with the very real prospect of filing bankruptcy," Walulik remarked.
Walulik explained President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010.
"The two provisions of ObamaCare that were most critical to us are that insurers cannot deny our son Nathan for a pre-existing condition and that insurers are prohibited from lifetime caps on coverage for essential care. Nathan will never have a normal intestinal tract so he has the condition the rest of his life," stated Julie Walulik.
"It was quite exciting to be asked to introduce the president of the United States. David and I voted early Thursday afternoon then took the children to dinner and stopped for ice cream. We celebrated the same way earlier this year when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional," she said.
"During my two minutes at the podium I want to impress upon people that our story is the story of the average Midwest family. We have good jobs and a good health insurance policy. But all it takes is a serious medical condition and a family could face a financial crisis within months," she noted.
"A lot of people don't realize how expensive insurance is and how quickly they can reach their lifetime cap. I am very happy with the health care law and I hope it stays in place. It does make me nervous that is is the center of so much debate," she noted.
"This election is critical. We are at the point now where we are crossing off certain medical services that we no longer need. I know we are in a far better place today than we were three years ago. We hope the law remains in place because when Nathan gets older and eventually buys his own health care insurance, he will not be denied because of a pre-existing condition," continued Julie.
David Walulik said he and all three of their children will be at the rally and have been told they will have a chance to meet the president after the rally.
"This is really an exciting few days for us. I grew up in Amsterdam and went to Edison South High School. I had the chance to meet Bill Clinton in 1992. And this will be a very exciting opportunity for our family," said David.
"But the real message is it doesn't matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat. Please know that without this law, it could happen to you. It happened to us," concluded David.