Washington man no stranger to challenges

Erin Wood
Grant Barrett

At 21, Grant Barrett has already faced his fair share of challenges.

A week after graduating from Washington Community High School in 2006, he joined the Army and would not come home until the end of 2007.

Then, at the end of July this year, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

“It’s the worst news you could possibly get,” he said. “I cried for the first time in forever, and I was angry as well.”

Barrett, who lives near Sunnyland, had felt a lump on his right testicle and decided to get it checked out. The growth was malignant.

“I asked the doctor, ‘How do you get this?’” Barrett recalled. “He said ‘Bad luck.’”

But Barrett had a bigger worry — how to pay for the needed operations. While going to Illinois Central College in hopes of becoming a police officer, Barrett also secured a job at Afina at the beginning of the summer.

But his health insurance coverage would not have begun until Aug. 1, just days after his diagnosis. On top of that, Afina policy says if an employee misses more than 50 hours of work in the first 90 days, he is terminated.

Because of doctors appointments and medical tests, Barrett passed the 50-hour absence mark and was fired, he said.

His next move was to call the Veteran’s Affairs office in Peoria, which deferred him to the Danville office, which deferred him to an Iowa office.

“They said they don’t have any specialists, and they basically told me not to deal with the V.A. when you’re dealing with cancer.”

After telling his story during a segment on WEEK News 25 a couple of weeks ago, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center expedited his charity care request and agreed to cover his initial $24,000 surgery that removed his right testicle.

But Barrett needs another surgery, this one with a $60,000 price tag. The operation would remove the lymph nodes from his testicles to his kidney.

The closest specialist Barrett found was in Chicago.

“When I went to Chicago, the doctor said if I don’t get the second surgery, there is a 50/50 chance the cancer will come back and possibly spread to other organs,” Barrett said. “If I get the surgery, there is only a 1 percent chance it will come back. Obviously, I want to get the surgery.”

But after being turned down for Medicaid and without insurance, the hospital asked for the money up front. Discouraged and running out of options, Barrett did not know what else to do but call the University of Illinois Chicago and share his story, pointing out that he has gotten attention from the local media.

During the middle of last week, his luck turned around, and UIC said they would do the procedure for free.

“For the last month, all I’ve been doing is trying to figure out how to get help,” Barrett said. “Now my only worry is just getting this surgery over with. It’s a big relief, you know.”

But Barrett said he wants to make sure no one has to share his challenges, and he has made his voice heard, from local legislators all the way to Gov. Pat Quinn’s office.

“There needs to be more government help for people like me,” Barrett said. “There needs to be a health care reform, but I don’t know if there will be.”

Still, Barrett has left his mark. House Bill 1033, signed by the governor Aug. 18, provides Medicaid coverage for uninsured men diagnosed with prostate and testicular cancer. It goes into effect Jan. 1, 2010.

“It will let some like me get the health care coverage they need,” Barrett said.