Without insurance, family braves cerebral palsy alone - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Without insurance, family braves cerebral palsy alone

September 3rd, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Without insurance, family braves cerebral palsy alone

By Coty Dolores Miranda

For the past 12 years, Andrew and Kellie Burkhart have paid all medical expenses for their son, Andrew, Jr., as he battles cerebral palsy.

The couple estimate monthly expenses run more than $1,000, and out-of-state treatments – suspended for now due to budgetary constraints – easily hit $20,000 annually.

Andrew Sr. (Drew) teaches math at  Hamilton High School and part-time daily at Bogle Junior High School; he formerly taught at Kyrene Akimel A-al in Ahwatukee. 

All costs for treatments have been out-of-pocket since Andrew, who will soon turn 16, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy a month before his 4th birthday.  

The Burkharts had grown frustrated with traditional medical care after repeated diagnoses brought few answers. And so they opted to try homeopathic medicine.

It meant they were on their own as only 11% of major healthcare insurers cover homeopathy treatments; most homeopathic physicians do not accept insurance.

Along with Drew Burkhart’s salary, the couple’s ability to pay for Andrew Jr.’s care depends on tax-deductible donations through two area nonprofits.

It was on their first visit that the homeopathic doctor diagnosed cerebral palsy. 

The diagnosis shocked the couple, especially Kellie Burkhart who had worked as a former mental health therapist and social worker. 

After pondering the out-of-pocket cost, they decided to commit to Homeopathic treatments. Within months, they saw visible progress in their son’s ability to walk and speak. 

They knew the path would be costly but felt it was the only, and best, alternative. Drew Burkhart said. 

“The homeopathic path was, in reality, the only path,” he said. “So many well-meaning professionals crushing my hopes with well-intended phrases: ‘Your son will never talk; Your son’s calf muscles will need Botox; he will never’ … fill in the blank. I am sure the idea was to get me to face facts and gain perspective about a new family path. So I chose one, I chose a new family path.

“In reality my wife deserves the credit for our direction,” Burkhart continued. “We had a friend with stage 4 cancer that was already years past his quoted life expectancy and going strong. His doctor became our doctor and a world of hope opened – a very expensive world of hope. 

“So we jumped in head first. To tell the truth, I do not know which of the natural remedies helped but I did know something was working.”

Many times, the Burkharts were unsure how everything could be paid. 

Time after time, as documented since December, 2010 in Kellie’s blog, PrayforAndrew.Wordpress.com, she recounts how medical needs were often “miraculously” covered due to the donations of friends, strangers and even local businesses.

“Andrew has taught us to live far beyond our comfort zone,” she said. “It is a financially suffocating path, but our child has improved. Yes, our bills are extensive and expensive, yet when people ask how we do it, I answer ‘by the grace of God.’”

“When we get to the end of our rope, we just call out to God. I used to be scared, but the miracles have happened time and time again,” she said. 

“Financially it’s still a mountain but we are rich in so many ways,” said her husband. “We have faith that our path is the right one.”

Kellie has been fundraising to help pay for her son’s healing.  She started by contacting businesses and was not deterred when only two out of 200 responded. 

Now she encourages businesses to donate to help Andrew using the charities who provide tax-deductible avenues. 

Several years ago they were made aware of the Cerebral Palsy Hope Foundation, which accepts donations specifically for Andrew’s medical needs, making the donations tax deductible.

 Andrew became one of the newest ‘Armer Kids’ at the Ahwatukee-based nonprofit The Armer Foundation. His story can be found, along with the other children the foundation helps support, at ArmerFoundation.org.  

Among the more costly of Andrew’s procedures in the past years were  a series of stem cell and hyperbaric oxygen treatments that the parents say allowed their son to experience “significant improvements” within days. 

“I believe the most powerful man-made remedy was the adult stem cells as Andrew’s life changed dramatically after the first four stem cell  treatments,” said Drew Burkhart.

Kellie Burkhart recalled a 2012 ‘60 Minutes’ program that outed online-sales of ‘bogus’ stem cell treatments. The child who was to be treated with four procedures at $5,000 a piece, had cerebral palsy. 

She took to her blog to tell her readers that while she lauded 60 Minutes for exposing the charlatans, her child had benefited from the umbilical cord stem cell treatments he’d received. “He has maintained all areas of progress with no negative side effects. I can only tell others with great certainty that it did help our child.”

 “Andrew is the sweetest soul. Even before he could speak, he was always making friends,” she said. “He loves people.”

For the Burkhart family, faith is a key to keeping on.

“My friend stopped me in the parking lot at work about a month into our new journey,” Drew Burkhart shared in an email. 

“I bet you pray for healing,” the friend wrote.

“I told him, ‘Every night.’”

 The friend replied, “You do not want that. You want the path that builds faith. You want the struggle. You want the blessing that can only be appreciated at the end of years of growth and perspective.”  

Drew said, “I’ve thought of that conversation often. In truth, I may not be completely on board with the years of struggle; it’s hard. I am getting there. I do think God placed us on a road we were meant to walk. We need to be faithful to our purpose. My life is much richer because of this life and the blessing that is my son.”

To learn more about Andrew and his family’s journey see the blog, PrayforAndrew.wordpress.com and Facebook under AndrewsAngels123.

To help: ArmerFoundation.org.