By U.S. ArmyFebruary 6, 2017
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Once, the request showed up on a post-it sticky note. Just three lines gave Danielle Macomber the information she needed to get started in taking care of a Soldier in basic training who got a surprise diagnosis of cancer.
As a health systems specialist in Madigan's Managed Care Division, Macomber processes medical referrals for active duty service members. In this case, things got tricky because the Soldier hadn't been in the military long enough for some benefits to be available, so Macomber had to be creative in how to provide the Soldier and her family the help that they needed.
"This was a case where thinking outside of the box was the only way," Macomber said .
Going the extra mile in cases like this earned Macomber the 2016 Army Medical Department Beneficiary Counseling and Assistance Coordinator of the Year.
"If there's an example in this hospital, it is Danielle. She's really a good example of putting her passion into taking care of patients," said Command Sgt. Maj. Horace Tyson, Madigan's senior enlisted leader.
She's quick to share the accolades with her team though.
"I'm completely honored and humbled … I think that it says a lot about Madigan as an organization because I can't do what I do by myself; this award is just a testament of our team," said Macomber of her division and the providers, nurse case managers and leadership of the service members they help.
While she spends her days processing referrals for anything from orthopedics to skilled nursing facilities to medical equipment, sometimes her work becomes more complex: helping wounded service members get immediate assistance stateside with ambulances or Life Flights, or getting TRICARE to cover a family member so they can provide a bone marrow transplant to their service member.
When Macomber works on a waiver that could apply to a wide spectrum of service members, she thinks globally and goes the extra length to officially request a TRICARE policy change for all service members. Thanks to Macomber's tenacity, deploying service members are now authorized batteries for their continuous positive airway pressure machines, and all service members get benefits such as home health care and respite care if they are seriously ill or injured.
She believes she is right where she is supposed to be in helping service members.
"I love this because I feel like I have the opportunity to be able to help them navigate this very convoluted process and system and ever-changing system, in a manner that relieves the stress from them, relieves the burden on their family, (and) reduces the financial stressors that come along with this so that they can do what they do best," Macomber said.
She gets emotional as she talks about her toughest cases, including those who needed extra care at the end of their lives.
When a service member with multiple organ failures went into hospice, Macomber worked to ensure he got a waiver for a Life Flight since he wouldn't have survived long enough for the car ride home.
"That was Mother's Day weekend, and he was not going to die in that hospital without his mom," she said. "So we got it approved at six o'clock in the evening on Mother's Day weekend, he went home Saturday afternoon and he passed Sunday morning."
For her Soldier who became ill in basic training, Macomber worked with the Soldier's care team and with community organizations like the Fisher House and the Madigan Foundation to support the patient and her family.
"We were able to pull it all together, allow her to focus on her treatment and learning what this new normal may look like for her; we even got it to where she could go out of the hospital on her 21st birthday to have dinner and cheesecake," Macomber said. "At the end of the day we took care of her; she has made it through the cancer."
A veteran herself, Macomber's heart is one of service for her military patients.
"The sacrifices that they're making for the benefits that they are receiving do not even compare," she said. "If I can … reach out to somebody who may be able to help and do that warm hand-off to ensure that their needs are being met, even if it's thinking outside of the box and it doesn't fall within my job description, then that's what we need to do, because that's what they need."