Mike Ramos, a well-known and highly sought after commercial photographer in the Greater Tampa Bay area, saved a woman’s life in early November by helping her get a life altering double mastectomy that she desperately needed. For almost twenty years Mike Ramos has been the commercial photographer Tampa businesses have chosen to shoot a wide variety of subjects including consumer products, architecture, healthcare, food & beverages, and more. In early August of 2010, one of his primary contacts at a prominent women’s fashion line, told him about her cousin who resides in Manatee County who had just been diagnosed with a recurrence of breast cancer and was devastated.
Mike Ramos, the commercial photographer Tampa has come to consistently rely on, had worked with Paige for years on photo shoots so he called her and reached out to her as any friend should. Paige originally had breast cancer about nine years ago, and was uninsured at the time. Due to a good economy she was able to pay for her own treatment out-of-pocket because the economy was good. Afterwards she was not able to get health insurance because of her pre-existing condition but was told that if she stayed cancer free for 10 years she could again become insured.
Before the ten years were up she found another lump in the same breast. In July of 2010 she went to have a biopsy done, which came back positive. She was informed that the recurrence was life threatening as it was in the same breast and that she needed emergency surgery, at least a mastectomy if not a bilateral mastectomy. She was uninsured and at this time could not afford to pay for treatment out-of-pocket as she had in the past due to the collapsed economy.
It took weeks before she even told anyone and more time to even get composure to start reaching out to all the well known breast cancer organizations. No one had any help. Many of the breast cancer organizations do a lot to help women with awareness, pre-screening, research, post treatment survival and lifestyle but they could not offer help to someone who needed immediate surgery to save her life. In one conversation that Paige had with a doctor’s office, she asked, “what do people do in my situation?” The response was, “people that are not insured, and do not have assets, do not get served.” Basically she was told in not so many words to just “go home and die”.
Commercial photographer Mike Ramos called a long time friend of his and prominent plastic surgeon Bart Rademaker, M.D. of the Rejuva Center For Plastic Surgery Wellness and Regeneration Spa of Tampa to ask for help. Mike would not tolerate responses that would condemn someone to go home and die as Paige was emotionally paralyzed needed support and guidance. Dr. Rademaker offered to help and was committed to make sure that Paige’s case would have a positive outcome.
Dr. Rademaker is a well known board certified plastic surgeon in the Tampa Bay area that is always committed to doing the right thing and providing quality results to all of his patients. In the case of Paige, he clearly understood the unfortunate dynamics of the health care system, insurance and her disease. He took upon himself to make sure that Paige got the best possible care to ascertain the best possible outcome. His first step was to meet Paige and assure her that everything would be fine and that the right solution and the right team to bring her back to health would be put in place and thereby free her from her emotional paralysis.
He helped her understand the situation and gave her a clear plan of action which included surgical and medical interventions as well as personal life coaching and other healing modalities like sound therapy and pre-surgery meditation techniques to improve surgical outcomes and recovery. Rademaker also assured her that she would get the absolute best
Dr. Rademaker knew he needed all the help he could get so he called in another of his colleagues, Dr. Robert Davidson, a surgical oncologist at Surgical Associates of West Florida and Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor, which is part of the Baycare Healthcare System. Dr. Davidson responded to Rademaker’s call and said he would help right away. He met with Paige, and recommended a mastectomy which was supported by the Tumor Board discussion group. He recommended removing the opposite breast as well because the risk for a genetic mutation in her case was high.
Paige had her surgery on November 11th, 2010 with the hope to be cancer free once again. For now the immediate cloud over her life has been lifted. Ironically, Mike Ramos did a photo shoot for a cancer survivor later that same day.
“These two doctors are the real hero’s” said Mike. “They stepped up when no one else would and offered to save Paige’s life with no expectation of anything in return. Baycare Healthcare System helped too. Paige was at the point of crying under the kitchen table for lack of help and did not want to die. She wanted to live and they gave her that gift; the gift of a second chance, and the gift of an opportunity to give back and make a difference.”
Mike Ramos, as a prominent Tampa commercial photographer, wanted to give something back as well since the doctors who did not have to help, reached into their hearts and did the right thing. Being a specialist in videography services, he offered to do a video for the doctors in return. He started filming Paige’s story which is now on its way to being a documentary about Paige and her dilemma of being uninsured in America after so-called healthcare reform.
“Paige went right through Breast Cancer Month with no one from that community being able to help” said Mike. “We are all still in shock and amazed. If they can’t help then, at that moment, then what are we doing? What are they doing?”
Not being a policy wonk, Paige was told in August and September about the new health care reform law which went into effect on July 1st that prevented people from being discriminated against for health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. She stared calling insurance companies because she needed to apply for insurance. This was in order to get purposely denied so that she could apply for insurance through the high risk pools or whatever was being created under the new law.
However, there were several problems: First, this process could take months, 6-9 months to get through all the bureaucracy and she needed surgery now. Every day that she did not have surgery was an additional day for the cancer to spread. It was clear she did not have this kind of time. Secondly, the new law eliminated pre-existing conditions for children and not adults. She was told by someone at one insurance company that if approved she would have to wait a year before the new insurance would cover the breast cancer – again, no time.
“If you are an adult in the U.S. today, and are uninsured, and do not have assets, like approximately 53 million people in the US according to latest data, and you have an acute and urgent illness, you will be told that you ‘cannot be served.’ In other words, you’ll be told to go home and die” said Bryan St.Laurent, an advisor to Mike Ramos who became involved in the project, “and that is after so-called Reform.”
“Republicans who ran against healthcare reform just retook the House, and one Republican Congressman has already been caught complaining about having to wait 28 days before he becomes eligible for government healthcare or
“I think Paige could have waited 28 days for care. In fact she did from biopsy to surgery, but there was no one there to step in and make a difference, no solution like the Congressman got until Mike got involved. And I think that says a lot. That’s the way he is, not only when he’s trying to help, but also in his work. He is relentless in his pursuit of quality. This time he saved someone’s life.”
You can see a preview of Paige’s story at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6qaxenZmwY. A website is under construction which will help Paige pay for chemotherapy and other medical services that she needs as part of the full recovery process. Watch for it at www.paigesfight.org . Mike Ramos is the commercial photographer Tampa calls on for unparalleled quality photographic and video services. If you have any questions about the story, or would like to see if Paige can speak to your group about her experience, please call Bryan St.Laurent at 941-479-0811.