$77K and climbing: Shea Heights woman facing rehabilitation, steep medical bills after stroke in U.S.
Erica Norman focusing on health before tackling $100K medical bill
Erica Norman thought she was having a heart attack at the gym.
Her left arm went numb, her balance was thrown off. She sat in a chair and told a friend to call 911.
A self-described fitness freak, Norman thought there was no way she was dying at the age of 27.
"I thought it was the last thing that would ever happen to me," she said. "This is why I am so healthy — to eliminate the chances of anything like this happening."
Inside her head, Norman's brain was bleeding. She was having a stroke and needed immediate medical attention.
She was rushed to a nearby hospital, in her new home state of Indiana, where she was placed on the intensive care unit. She remained there for four days before being moved to a regular bed in the hospital on Friday.
Norman speaks without any impediment, but walking without a walker is impossible for now.
Her left side is weak, and she has limited use of her left arm.
"I call it my spaghetti arm," she said, laughing through tears. "Just to keep good spirits."
When she first arrived at the hospital, doctors asked if she had family they could call. Norman asked them not to call her parents — she didn't want to worry them.
She soon changed her mind and her parents, Paul and Jackie, were on the next flight stateside.
"They have brightened my days in so many ways," she said. "They told me I was strong. They told me I could do it."
Medical bills piling up
A graduate of Memorial University, Norman recently took a job with a biomedical engineering firm in Indiana.
She had a one-year contract without benefits — not an ideal situation, but one she didn't mind as a healthy young woman.
"I didn't think that anything like this would happen," she said.
Little did she know, she was born with an arteriovenous malformation — a cluster of infused blood vessels in her brain.
After five days in the hospital, her bill had amounted to $77,000. She expects it to cross six figures before she is released.
"Every bit of care that I get — even if its just to help me sit up in bed — I'm getting charged for it."
I push myself every day to do something new.- Erica Norman
For now, she isn't worried about the costs. She is only focused on pushing herself to get better and get back home to Newfoundland.
The cost will be mitigated, or covered entirely, by a GoFundMe campaign in her name. Support has been pouring in from all over the province, but specifically in her home community of Shea Heights.
"They're like family up there," she said. "Every little bit has added up. I'm just so grateful to have such amazing people in my life."
As of Saturday evening, the crowdfunding campaign had raised more than $30,000.
Still at risk, but focused on health
Doctors have told Norman she is at a heightened risk of a second stroke for the next year.
As time goes on, the risk of a second rupture in her problematic blood vessels becomes lower.
Due to the location of the malformation on her brain, surgeons are unable to operate and fix the problem. Instead, she will have to undergo radiation treatment to destroy the cluster.
Norman is determined to regain her mobility, using the same determination she applied daily at the gym.
"I'm a very independent woman," she said. "I push myself every day to do something new."
While a stroke has knocked her down for now, it's the feelings of love and encouragement from everyone in her life that will last longer.
Recovery is a long way in the distance, but Norman says she will do whatever it takes to get life back to normal, the vibrant, youthful life she almost lost five days ago.
"I'm just so grateful to be alive."