Erin

Erin Richwine, an Abilene High School graduate, was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident and his currently at a rehabilitation center in Nebraska.

You’ve heard it before, but Samantha Sholtz is begging you again: If you ride a motorcycle, wear a helmet.

Sholtz doesn’t know if a helmet would have saved her sister, Erin Richwine, from some of her life-threatening injuries, but maybe …

“Now I think about that all the time,” said Sholtz, of Abilene.

Erin and her husband, Casey Richwine, of Clearwater, went for a motorcycle ride Aug. 13 on 55 mph rural roads, Sholtz said. A deer ran out in front of them and Casey braked hard. The bike skidded and they essentially laid the bike down, Sholtz said. Neither was wearing a helmet.

Casey had minor injuries and returned to work as an officer with the Wichita Police Department this week.

He said he had to be there for their sons, ages 12 and 7, so he might as well go back to work. He’s also trying to save as much of his family medical leave time as he can for when Erin comes home.

Erin, 35, who grew up in Abilene, had critical head injuries. After about a month in the ICU in a Wichita hospital and a battle with the insurance company, she was transferred to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals-Lincoln Campus in Lincoln, Nebraska, last week.

“We fought very hard to get her in there,” Sholtz said.

Erin is covered by Aetna, her husband’s health insurance policy through the Wichita Police Department. Aetna at first denied their request, Sholtz said. The company wanted to keep Erin in a nursing home, which would have been cheaper.

“I wasn’t going to take that as an answer,” Casey said, about Aetna’s “no.”

He put in the “extra work” to get the company’s attention, he said. One night about 4 in the morning, he wasn’t sleeping anyway, so he decided to use his time to advantage.

Casey said he “inundated” the company’s Facebook page with messages. He tagged hundreds of people in the messages. He contacted state and federal politicians.

It worked, eventually, but people “shouldn’t have to fight to get their loved ones where they need to go,” Casey said.

Erin’s case will be re-evaluated every seven days at Madonna by the insurance company, Sholtz said.

“We’re a little on edge about that,” she said.

“Hopefully, we continue down this path,” based on Madonna’s recommendations, Casey said.

Just in case, though, he has lawyers on stand-by.

For every five minutes of therapy, Erin rests 10 minutes, he said.

The staff at Madonna takes things slow with this type of brain injury.

At this point, Casey said, Erin is still somewhat comatose and has minimal movement.

According to Casey’s post on their GoFundMe account, www.gofundme.com/f/casey-amp-erin-richwine, Erin’s tracheotomy tube was removed last week and she is breathing on her own again. She started evaluation and therapy, but it’s going to be slow work.

Casey said he expects his wife to be in the medical program for 3-4 weeks while her brain and body heal before she is transferred to an acute therapy program.

“She has a really long road ahead of her,” Sholtz said.

Casey said Madonna has been terrific about keeping him informed of Erin’s treatment and he goes there on the weekends.

Erin’s father, Bradley Sholtz, stays with her in Lincoln. He has barely left her side since the accident, Samantha Sholtz said.

It’s been a sorrowful year for the Abilene man and the family. In February, his wife Paula died from breast cancer then Erin’s crash happened six months later.

No surprise

Harold Courtois, chief executive officer at Memorial Hospital in Abilene, and Paula Pedersen, director of patient financial services, said they weren’t surprised the transfer was denied at first.

Memorial Hospital is not involved in Erin’s care, but Courtois and Peterson spoke about working with insurance companies.

“Aetna, for the most part has not been bad to work with,” Courtois said, particularly the commercial division which is what covers Erin.

For a lot of the big insurance companies, “their first response is ‘no, no, no,’ ” Peterson said, and you have to appeal.

Peterson and Courtois said patients usually have the best luck asking the medical provider to submit the appeal for them, which most are willing to do.

“If she needs rehabilitation, that’s where she belongs,” Courtois said of Madonna. “It’s unfortunate that you have to fight to get something done correctly.”

Another of Aetna’s divisions, Aetna Better Health, has had negative publicity lately. This is the first year of its contract with Kansas as one of three private companies to provide services for KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid service. Aetna Better Health has been accused of not paying claims on time and other problems. The company has apologized and replaced some of its top management people in the state.

Contact Jean Bowers at reporter2@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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