(Updated 5:50 p.m.) Amana Bhuiyan wakes up at 4 a.m. at her home in the Huntington neighborhood of Fairfax and immediately starts driving Uber. Around 9 or 10 a.m. she’ll switch to Instacart or DoorDash. Then around 2 or 3 p.m., it’s working at Walgreens until closing until around midnight. Then, another few hours of late-night Uber before returning home to sleep for two or three hours before starting it all again the next day.
It’s an exhausting schedule, but Bhuiyan said it’s what it takes to try t try to raise the money necessary to pay to remove a painful tumor.
“It’s exhausting, but when you have something to fight for, we make it work,” Bhuiyan said, trying to remain upbeat.
Bhuiyan has a tumor just above her hip near the lower part of her spine, which it painfully rubs up against. The tumor is complicated by Bhuiyan’s hemihyperplasia, which means she has extracellular growth on one side of her body. As a last resort, Bhuiyan is running a GoFundMe campaign to try to help cover the medical costs for removing the tumor. The GoFundMe has currently raised $18,640 with a $30,000 goal, which Bhuiyan said would help put a dent in the $150,000 in medical debt from her surgeries and her mother’s paralysis.
“I was born with [hemihyperplasia] which made it so that my tumor was hard to diagnose,” Bhuiyan said.
For two years, Bhuiyan said she jumped from doctor to doctor, from recommendation to recommendation, but each time she said she was told the procedure would be too risky to try and fix. Finally, Bhuiyan found a plastic surgeon willing to work on it. Bhuiyan already had one eight-hour surgery where she said the doctor was able to remove 65% of the tumor. But now, even as Bhuiyan is struggling with the debt from the first surgery, Bhuiyan said the tumor is slowly growing back. Now, even on the nights where she does have a few hours to sleep, Bhuiyan said it’s difficult due to the pain caused by the tumor.
“I already, right now from the first surgery, have maxed out that credit card,” Bhuiyan said. “I had amazing credit. I had a 753 credit score, and now I’m down to 562. I’m not being accepted for any loans because I’m apparently borrowing too much.”
That first surgery ended up costing over $50,000, which Bhuiyan said was all out-of-pocket. Bhuiyan, like many service industry workers that provide the labor pool for major apps, has no health insurance through her jobs. She said she applied for Obamacare last year but never heard back, and makes just enough from all of her jobs that she falls into the gap not protected under Medicaid. But even if she had insurance, Bhuiyan said the tumor isn’t considered a medically necessary surgery and isn’t covered by insurance for plastic surgery.
“I’ve been trying to get it to the point where hopefully I can pay off enough of my debt to try to get a loan to pay off the rest of this surgery because just the surgeon fee is $23,000,” Bhuiyan said. “Because he is a cosmetic surgeon, they don’t take insurance. It’s all out of pocket.”
On top of that work, Bhuiyan is taking classes at George Mason University, and she eventually wants to be a doctor and help people. In the meantime, Bhuiyan hopes at the very least that more people can understand the living situation for those less financially well-off in the area.
“We live in an area where most people have insurance and work for the government, and we don’t really know what the bottom percent of people are going through unless you have someone in your life going through it,” Bhuiyan said. We don’t usually see it. If nothing else, I’m doing this so people can be educated about it.”
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