Red tape keeps half of woman’s skull in freezer

A WOMAN was forced to spend four months with almost half her skull stored in a hospital freezer due to insurance problems.

After a car accident in January, 22-year-old Briana Lane had half her skull removed to save her life. When she woke in a hospital in Utah, one side of her head was left with only skin and sutures covering an area where the bone had been removed.

Upon her release in February, her half-skull remained in a hospital freezer while paperwork passed between the hospital and the Medicaid health insurance programme to decide who would pay for the surgery to repair the damage.

"When you think of weird things happening to people you don't think of that," said Ms Lane. "It's like taking out someone's heart you need that!"

The former waitress's close-cropped hair barely covers the long curved scar on her scalp where her skull was replaced on April 30, months after the accident.

Ms Lane, from Midvale, Utah, has lost hearing in her right ear. She considers herself lucky to have survived but says months spent living at home without a portion of her skull were painful.

Waking up in the morning, she would notice how her brain had shifted during the night to one side. She was given a plastic hockey helmet to wear during the day for protection "You'd think they could give me something better protective, like a skull, perhaps."

She blames the delay in her surgery on bureaucratic red tape between the University of Utah Health Sciences Centre and Medicaid.

Without funds to pay for the surgery herself, Ms Lane eventually contacted a local television station, a move which, she believes, hastened the surgery.

!Hospital spokeswoman Anne Brillinger said she could not comment on Lane's case under federal patient privacy guidelines.

Normally an uninsured, low-income patient in her situation must wait for a Medicaid disability ruling to come through.

Medics can hasten the process by signing a certificate of need, but the patient would still be responsible for payment. Ms Brillinger said that the hospital did not initially consider the second surgery an emergency.

Medicaid refused to pay after deciding Ms Lane did not meet the insurance programme's disability requirements, said Robert Knudson, Utah's director of eligibility services.

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