Fort Lee officer touts TRICARE benefit
July 5, 2012
FORT LEE, Va. (July 5, 2012)- Capt. Grace Hurlocker will always be grateful for the "perks" of military life, particularly the health care benefits that are giving her daughter a better chance at a happy, healthy future.
"We are really lucky and blessed that I am in the Army and receiving this benefit," said the commander of Papa Co., 266th Quartermaster Battalion, 23rd QM Brigade. "I want to share my good story about TRICARE. There are so many options when it comes to our medical care; and this is one example of what our benefit really means."
Almost exactly a year ago, Hurlocker's daughter, Faith Brunais, was diagnosed with scoliosis, an abnormal curving of the spine, sometimes looking like the letter "C" or "S." The 14-year-old has adolescent scoliosis, which affects children ages 11-18 and more often girls than boys. Brunais recently underwent spinal surgery to fix a 72-degree curvature of her spine. The captain estimates the surgery cost more than $200,000.
"Faith's curvature moved very quickly," Hurlocker said. "In May 2011 she was diagnosed with a curvature of less than 20 and, within a year, it needed to be corrected surgically."
In addition to dealing with the back pain, Brunais missed her friends and her former school in Waynesville, Mo., where her grandparents lived. In the middle of the school year, Hurlocker allowed her to move in with them, and they were able to get her an appointment with Dr. Lawrence Lenke at the St. Louis Children's Hospital.
Lenke's practice is devoted to spinal surgery, with an emphasis on complex reconstructive surgery and the treatment of spinal deformities such as scoliosis and other anomalies of the spine.
During the surgery, Lenke attached a metal rod to each side of the Brunais's spine by using hooks or screws attached to the vertebral bodies.
With the surgery behind her and the curvature corrected, the teen is looking forward to moving ahead with her activities and getting together with friends.
"I was very uncomfortable for a while," Brunais said. "It felt like my spine was pushing into my hips and my body didn't feel like things were where they were supposed to be."
Hurlocker said instead of worrying about how she was going to pay for the treatment her daughter needed, she was able to "be where I needed to be and do what I needed to do."
"Knowing that I had TRICARE and the surgery would be covered is beyond words," she said. "Without it I know I wouldn't have been able to afford it. I would have to as for donations or find money somehow to pay for it.
Hurlocker said she knows that she works hard for her benefits but appreciates that TRICARE does so much for military members and their Families.
"A lot of people complain about the military, and there is a lot of stuff that people don't like to deal with, but it is the same way everywhere. There are a lot of things people deal with in the civilian workforce, and they don't get nearly the benefits we receive. That's important to take into consideration when weighing the pros and cons of military service."
Hurlocker said she never imagined using her health care benefit to this degree but is thankful that TRICARE was there when she needed it.
"Everyone we encountered during this process was helpful and I couldn't have asked for more," she said. "The staff at Kenner and the TRICARE representatives did everything they could to help us. We are blessed, blessed, blessed."