Woman sent home to die for not having money to pay for liver surgery

Contributed Photo: Friends of Lilly Machado say she was sent home to die by a Phoenix hospital after not having $500,000 to pay for liver transplant surgery upfront.

By Jon Johnson


GLOBE – In the very first episode of the HBO television show The Newsroom, Atlantis Cable News (ACN) anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) goes off on a tangent after being asked by a college student why he thinks the United States is the greatest country in the world. McAvoy replies that “there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world.”

Donald Trump ran his candidacy in 2016 on the motto “Make America Great Again” and had four years as the most powerful man in the world to do so.

Right now at this moment, a restaurant server in Globe, Lilly Machado, is teetering on the brink of death, which would make a widow of her husband and cause her children, ages 19, 17, and 6, to no longer have a mother because she cannot afford to pay half a million dollars upfront for liver surgery, according to friends and family. 

Lilly works for the El Ranchito restaurant in Downtown Globe, where she has been a server for more than 15 years. The restaurant is a family business owned by the parents of Berenise Bowyer, who previously worked alongside Lilly and now handles the restaurant’s social media presence among other things. 

Recently, Bowyer posted a GoFundMe for Lilly Machado, which stated Lilly had been diagnosed with non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver and that it was functioning at only 10 to 15 percent. On Saturday, Bowyer updated the page and advised that Lilly had been turned down for a life-saving liver transplant because she does not have the funds to pay for it all at once. According to Bowyer, the staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix advised that Lilly would have to pay $50,000 upfront to schedule the transplant surgery and either pay the remaining $450,000 right after the surgery or have proof of collateral showing that she could pay it.

According to Bowyer, Lilly is on an emergency Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), which is Arizona’s Medicaid agency that offers health care programs to individuals who meet certain income and other requirements, but that will not assist with the surgery cost.    

After advising that she could not meet those immediate financial demands and being denied a payment plan, the hospital reportedly discharged Lilly and sent her home with a prescription for steroids and painkillers to keep her “comfortable” while she awaits death. She had to pay for the medication out of pocket.  

“They offered her hospice somewhere down in the Valley, and she denied,” Bowyer told the Gila Herald. “She was like, ‘I want to go home. If you guys are going to send me home to die I want to go home with my kids and my husband.’”

A representative of St. Joseph’s told the Gila Herald that she was not aware of the situation with Lilly Machado. Abby Friedemann, External Communications Specialist for Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center emailed the following statement to the Gila Herald.

“Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center is unable to provide specific information about this matter due to federal privacy regulations,” Friedemann wrote. “The organ transplantation process is incredibly complex, and there are a number of detailed nationally-applied criteria that must be followed. We strive to provide all our patients with the best possible care under the established criteria.”

Bowyer said Lilly had previously been at a Banner hospital and went to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix on Sunday, however, that hospital advised them to go back to St. Joseph’s and see if there was any type of charity fund. 

“We keep trying to leave messages (but) nobody is returning calls,” Bowyer said. “So, we’re kind of stuck in the middle here. We don’t know what else to do because St. Joe’s already sent her home.”

The restaurant community in Globe has rallied around Lilly in an attempt to raise the funds necessary for liver transplant surgery by holding special events. 

On Tuesday, El Ranchito will donate all proceeds from 11 a.m to 8:30 p.m. (cash only), Luna Olive Oil & More is donating 20 percent of all its proceeds this week, the Copper Bistro is taking donut orders this week for $20 with all sales benefitting Lilly, and Dre’s Dawg House will donate all its sales on Oct. 1 to Lilly and her family, Bloom Restaurant is making a Lilly sushi roll and all-cash purchases of the item on Friday, Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. will be donated, and the Drift Inn Saloon is holding a Jello shot fundraiser Thursday – Saturday (Sept. 23 – 25) with all proceeds going directly to Lilly and her family, and more. 

On Monday, La Casita in Downtown Globe donated a portion of its proceeds from the day as well. 

“I personally just called a placed an order for my family and it was over an hour wait,” Bowyer said. “They are definitely coming together . . . I’m a mom. I can’t imaging being sent home to die because I don’t have the money to pay for (a surgery) upfront.” 

Bowyer advised that Lilly has offered to pay monthly installments for the surgery, but the hospital refused. 

“They pretty much said, ‘no, we need it up font,’” Bowyer said. “It’s frustrating for her and it’s frustrating for us because we hate to see her in pain . . . We’re not asking it to be free, we’re asking to break it up into some payments. We told them we have the $50,000 between the community and my parents helping out but it’s not enough for them. They want it all.”

While politicians continue to debate how our medical system in the United States works, or, doesn’t work, those most in need of services just might end up slipping through the cracks like Lilly Machado.

As those chant slogans and preach about how great America is, real greatness is being shown by the Globe community, which is rallying around one of its own.

If you are a business that wants to join in on the fundraising efforts, visit GO Globe-Miami’s Facebook page here

“Thank you to the community,” Bowyer said. “It has literally just blown us away . . . It’s just been amazing to see our little community come together to support this local mom, this local waitress who has worked at our little restaurant. She is obviously loved and she is obviously cared for and we just need to give her another chance to get this liver.” 

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