LACONIA — A couple whose 9-month old son, Skye, underwent skull surgery in March that allows his brain room to grow and have had to use unpaid medical leave in order to care for him following the surgery find themselves struggling to pay their bills and rent.
Kristen Bibeault and her fiance Tom Malo are mental health care providers who work at the New Hampshire Hospital in Concord, and while both have recently returned to work, they still face a month without a paycheck while their bills continue to increase.
"We stayed home from work to help him recover, and because of his numerous followup appointments. We stayed out of work due to the fact that we had no one who we trusted other than ourselves to care for him, as he healed," said Bibeault, adding that the experience of recent months due to their son's condition has been incredibly difficult for both of them.
Skye, who was born last August, was diagnosed last fall with right coronal craniosynostosis, a birth defect in which one of the joints between the bones of the baby's skull closes prematurely before the brain is fully formed. It requires surgery to correct.
Early photos of Skye that the couple have show a slight bulge over his left eye, with the right eye appearing slightly larger than the left.
The couple had originally scheduled surgery with Dartmouth-Hitchcock for early February, but Malo was denied a request for time off from the State Hospital because he wasn't eligible for leave until Feb. 22, the first-year anniversary of his employment there.
Bibeault said that since both wanted to be present for the surgery, they postponed it until the next available date, which turned out to be March 17.
"The sutures in his head had fused and they had to cut his head open from ear to ear so that his brain would have room to grow," said Malo.
Bibeault said she had used most of her medical leave after Skye was born and that the couple faced additional strains after the operation. "He has had multiple appointments, one after another, including regularly physical exams. He has physical therapy for his Torticallis (weak muscles in his neck which have caused his head to tilt). Skye will also be receiving eye testing to make sure the functioning of his eyes have not been disturbed, throughout his conditions.
The couple said health insurance has covered a lot of the $15,000 in medical expenses, but the bills continue to grow and they have been unable to work regularly because of the demands of getting him to his appointments and providing care for him on a daily basis. Malo works the day shift at the hospital while Bibeault works the second shift.
"We both work with kids ranging from ages 3 to 18. Tom and I have been in this line of work for over 10 years," said Bibeault, who has been at New Hampshire Hospital for two years.
Malo said other states have different standards on medical leave and a program which makes it easier for people to qualify for it and he wishes that the state hospital had been more flexible so that the operation could have taken place sooner. He said Gov. Maggie Hassan expressed support for them after The Concord Monitor ran a story in January about their plight.
He said that the couple have been threatened by EverSource with having their power shut off because their bill hasn't been paid, adding to the pressure thy have felt in recent months.
Bibeault said the couple's immediate goal is to raise $4,000 in order to pay their bills, and that if they reach their goal they intend to donate $500 to the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth. She said her sister recommended that she set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for expenses not covered by the family's health insurance. She started the page in December and it has raised over $5,000 to help them meet some of their expenses.
"We're hoping that people will go to the page and help us meet our goal," said Bibeault.
Skye's GoFundMe page can be found online at gofundme.com/babyskye.
Kristen Bibeault holds her son, Skye, who underwent skull surgery in March to allow his brain room to grow. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
Tom Malo and Kristen Bibeault hold their son Skye, who underwent skull surgery in March to allow his brain room to grow. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
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