TAMPA - Ellis Washington is in the middle of his radiation treatments for lung cancer.
His journey started with a trip to the emergency room and a CT scan.
"They gathered around the bed, kind of made me a little nervous. Then they told me, Mr. Washington, we have bad news. You have a spot on your lung," he recalled.
Brandi Rhody is a nurse navigator for Florida Hospital Tampa's Lung Institute.
"At the time he found that out, he did not have insurance. So, he didn't feel comfortable being admitted to the hospital and having a hospital bill to pay. But, he did know he needed to make a life change. So he ended up in our tobacco treatment class," Rhody said.
That's where Washington met Brandi– who hooked him up with the hospital's financial counselor.
That expert helped Washington determine he qualified for Medicaid. Brandi said, "We were able to get the diagnosis, which moved him up that ladder a little quicker to get that coverage."
For those who don't qualify for Medicaid, there are local and national nonprofit foundations that aid with medical expenses, but they often come with a lot of paperwork to fill out. Brandi helps patients with that as well.
For Washington, getting that diagnosis and into treatment quickly saved his life.
Dr. Harvey Greenberg is the Director of the Radiation Program at Florida Hospital Tampa and Washington's doctor.
"Mr. Washington has a very fast growing, but extremely limited type of lung cancer called small cell cancer. If properly treated, in a timely fashion, he has an excellent prognosis and a potential for cure. But the prognosis in a man like him left untreated is measured in months."
That's exactly why Doctor Rafael Martinez, of the Florida Hospital Lung Institute says patients shouldn't t let fear or lack of insurance keep them from getting a diagnosis.
"In our case we take care of everybody,not based on their condition, or if they can pay or not," Martinez said.
Doctor Martinez hopes insurance will start paying for CT scans to screen for lung cancer later this year, at least in high risk patients like Mr. Washington, who said he smoked three packs a day until recently.
Florida Hospital is holding a free smoking cessation class August 21 from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
It's at the Life Hope Medical Office Building– 4 th floor conference room
3000 Medical Park Drive Tampa, FL 33613
For more information on the Florida Hospital Lung Institute go to: FHTampa.org/LungInstitute