Thrive by IU Health

July 18, 2023

Philanthropy-funded gas cards fuel patient needs

IU Health Arnett Hospital

Philanthropy-funded gas cards fuel patient needs

Imagine your wife being in hospice, doctors calling to say she only has hours to live, and you aren't by her side because you cannot afford the cost of transportation to the hospital.

For Indiana University Health social worker Kayla Valdes, this nightmare almost became her patient's reality. A patient’s husband, who doesn't drive and could not afford a bus trip or Uber, nearly missed the opportunity to be with her during her final hours.

Thankfully, Valdes had access to philanthropy-funded gas cards, provided to IU Health Arnett Hospital by generous donations from IU Health Foundation supporters, which she gave to the patient’s family. Social workers are the "keepers of the cards," who distribute them when they see a need.

"That card did so much more than pay for his gas," Valdez said. "Can you imagine if he hadn't been able to say goodbye to his wife? That card gave him a moment he will never forget or get back. It's priceless."

Donations to the Patient Assistance Funds at IU Health hospitals often assist with transportation costs, for loved ones wanting to be with hospitalized patients and for patients who need to travel for follow-up appointments and ongoing care such as physical therapy.

"We aren't expecting the gas card to fix all of their problems," said Megan Stoffel, a maternal and child health social worker at IU Health Arnett Hospital. "But it does help an immediate financial need during a medical crisis and often offsets the cost of something else that a patient needs, like groceries."

Megan Stoffel (left), Kayla Valdes (right)

Stoffel also added that IU Health Arnett Hospital has seen a recent influx of patients needing transportation assistance due to fluctuating gas prices and lack of public transit in the surrounding rural counties the hospital serves.

She recalled a new mother and father who lived in Rensselaer and spent paycheck after paycheck on gas money to drive to Lafayette to see their son in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Arnett. His lengthy and unexpected stay in the NICU caused both parents to lose their income just as they faced a pile of unexpected medical bills.

"When I gave them their gas card, it was not just gas money," Stoffel said. "It was a chance for them to see their baby boy."

In addition to distributing gas cards, Valdes and Stoffel also connect patients and families with resources to address their financial struggles.

"We know the gas card is a band-aid," Valdes said. "Ultimately what we want is to help set them up for financial success."

For Valdes and Stoffel, that is the ultimate reward, but being able to help patients in moments of crisis is just as gratifying.

"A gas card might seem like a small thing, but for the patients who need them, it's a big thing," Stoffel said. " I know I am making a difference at that moment.”

To explore how you can help patients and their families in the West Central Region, contact Ashley Pleasant, West Central Region philanthropy director, at astrickland@iuhealth.org.