Trying to find pro bono surgeon. Any advice?

on 3/17/10 6:55 pm - Canton, OH
Hello there. I'm trying to find a surgeon who will do weight loss surgery pro bono, or perhaps with a deferred payment program (like, say, no payments needed for a year or two from surgery date). I'm unemployed, have no income or insurance, don't qualify for medicaid, etc. I also can't get a loan or one of those credit cards meant for medical bills due to not having an income. I made a youtube video to make this process a little easier. So I could theoretically just email various surgeons and give them the video link. I think having a face to look at would be more personal than just an email/phone call. But we'll see. Anyways, here's the link:

With all of that in mind, do any of you have advice to help with this? It's a long shot that any of you would know of a surgeon who actually does these pro bono, but it's worth asking. And aside from that, if you just know of any surgeons who might be open to the idea but have never done it would be helpful. I could just start randomly emailing surgeons, I suppose. In fact, I probably will if I can't think of anything else. The very very VERY last option, which I would likely never do, is to contact some one at a local news station for help. But, well, I really don't want to be on tv and stuff. This is emotionally trying enough as it is.

Any help at all would be greatly appreciated. Feel free to pass on the link to the video or this thread, or anything you might want to do.
on 3/17/10 7:16 pm - OH
I suspect you'll have a very hard time finding a surgeon willing to donate his work, but I wish you luck with it.  Have you thought about how you'll pay the other costs, though, even if you find a surgeon that will do the operation for free?  For instance, there will be a hospital bill, a bill from the anesthesiologist, a bill from the dietician, a bill from the psych eval if the surgeon requires you to have a psych eval (and most do), probably a bill from a radiologist (if they do a leak test after surgery), a bill for blood work you'll have to have before surgery, etc.  And what if you have complications?  Would you expect the surgeon to do additional operations or treatments for strictures or whatever for free, too? 

What about your follow up care, which can be quite expensive?  Doctor's appointments, labs, nutritional supplements, medications, etc.  How would you pay for those things?

on 3/17/10 7:16 pm
two suggestions:

1;  some poster on OH had something in their signature about a medical study that would provide bariatric surgery...sorry, I do not recall who

2.  contact Healthbase  I do not know if WLS is something they deal with, but my friend had a heart attack and needed heart surgery.  All the places in Houston sent him home to die because he had no money and no insurance.  Healthbase arranged for his surgery in India at 1/5 of the cost. Since he had no $$$ he contacted his church and all his friends and networked to get 200 people to donate $100 towards his expenses.  He raised $20,000 in two weeks.  Three years later he is doing great!

Good luck!!
on 3/17/10 7:29 pm
Sorry, sweetie.  I agree with Poet Kelly.  I had original RNY surgery in 2005, and had many, many complications.  Over one year, I had seven endoscopies.  I finally had revision surgery in January after several years of problems and pain.  The bill for this one was $64,000.  Insurance paid far less, but the bills are staggering, and most of it was hospital, anesthesia, medications, IVs, the leak test, etc.  It goes on and on.  My pre-op blood work was $1108.

Your best bet is to find out how to get on Medicaid or find insurance through your spouse.  If you have no income, you should qualify for Medicaid.

Having said all that, please don't give up.  Keep looking for ways to get what you need to get healthy.  There are a lot of experienced people on this board, and they are willing to provide advice, hand-holding, support and wisdom.

Hang in there - you deserve to be healthy.
on 3/17/10 7:33 pm - OH
In most states, you cannot get Medicaid just because you have no income.  You must be elderly or disabled or have small children or something.  If you are a healthy adult capable of working, you usually won't qualify for Medicaid.  A better option would be to get a job that has insurance that covers WLS.  You only have to work part time at Starbucks.

on 3/17/10 7:51 pm - Monticello, IN
RNY on 03/09/10 with
I agree Kelly, that was my original thought, instead of spending time searching for someone to do the surgery for free, try looking for a job that has insurance. As sparce as jobs are now days, I think you would probably have a better time finding a job than finding a surgeon, hospital, etc. to forgo their fees. If you are unable to work due to a disability, then you should be eligible for disability and medicaid, it's a long process to get disability but can be doable in some occasions. Most all of us probably feel we are beneath working at fast food, etc. but it may be a means to an end.

As other posters have said, my preop test bill came yesterday, almost $6,000 for a half days worth of tests. Can't wait for the bill for the surgery. I do have insurance but our deductible is very high so there will be significant out of pocket expense on my part but this is my husband and I's choice to keep our monthly premiums lower.

I hope your search for a surgeon is successful, but these surgeons don't drive BMW's, Mercedes and have top notch offices by doing their work for free.

Goodluck in your journey, keep checking all possiblities until you get the surgery you feel you need.

on 3/18/10 4:09 am - Fremont, MI
I am a single mom of 4, no job, no child support etc. I do not qualify for Medicaid. I had a job 15 years ago that had a 401K profit sharing plan that is worth too much. If I ca**** in I would have to pay a penalty for cashing in early and would not even get half of it. It does not make sense.
Barb RNY August 4, 2008

(deactivated member)
on 3/17/10 7:36 pm - AZ
Revision on 12/06/06 with
on 3/17/10 7:37 pm, edited 3/17/10 7:37 pm
Thanks, PK.  I stand corrected. 

Starbucks isn't such a bad place to work.  I have a friend *****ally likes it, even though she could earn more money teaching.  Of course, I would probably OD on caffiene, but there are worse ways to die!

I hope the OP can find a way to get help in her WL journey.

on 3/17/10 7:41 pm - OH
I bet you'd get free coffee while you were working, right?  Free lattes?  Cafe mochas?  Yum. 

on 3/17/10 8:33 pm - FL
I've worked in the medical field most of my adult life and I hate to bust your bubble, but unless you are a two headed baby or have some other type of really unique medical anomalies, the chances of you finding a surgeon willing to do pro-bono for WLS is probably less than zero.

Even if you could find a surgeon, there is the cost of the medical facility where the surgery is to be performed to also consider. 

I agree with what some of the others are advising, your time would probably be a lot better spent looking for a job with health insurance benefits. 

Good luck to you!!!
on 3/18/10 4:35 am - Avon, IN
RNY on 08/12/10 with
There are a group of doctors in Louisville that once a month they do surgeries for people who cannot afford them. I am not sure what all they do though. I know for a fact that they are plastic surgens but I am not sure what all they do for people. I have heard about the general surgeries but I am not sure what else. I will ask my husband and get the name for you
on 7/25/14 11:57 am

Hi my name is Lisa and I seen your post and was wondering if you found the name of the doctors and what they do?

on 7/25/14 5:15 pm

Darlin', no one's going to give you WLS for free. Sorry, but it's just not going to happen.


Valerie G.
on 3/18/10 5:16 am - Northwest Mountains, GA
Have you tried the route of Vocational Rehabilitation?  I've heard of people getting wls covered under those such programs.

 9 years post op DS 
There is room on this earth for all of God's to the mashed potatoes

on 3/18/10 7:36 am - OH
I'm guessing you'd have to be disabled and the surgery would be necessary in order for you to return to the workforce?  That's mostly what Voc Rehab does, helps people with disabilities return to work.  If you're disabled, though, you'll  also qualify for Medicare which covers WLS.  You must be disabled for two years before you qualify for Medicare, though.

Cicerogirl, The PhD

on 7/25/14 7:31 pm - OH

Unfortunately, the likelihood of getting completely free WLS is almost non-existent. There are simply too many costs associated with the surgery (not to mention the costs of follow-up care and for any  complications you might have).

As others have pointed out, the surgeon's fee isn't the primary factor in the cost of the surgery... It is the hospital charges for the operating room time, equipment, and personnel... the various medications during and after surgery... the room, medication, and lab work charges for the post-op stay, etc. that comprises the vast majority of the cost of surgery. (The surgeon's fee may only be $4,000 whereas the hospital bill may be $40,000!)

Getting a job that provides insurance that covers WLS would be your best approach. If you are unemployed with children, wouldn't you be eligible for subsidized medical insurance under Obamacare?  Those plans generally don't cover WLS (but I have heard that some do, depending on whether you are in a state with its own exchange or are on the federal exchange). It would be worth checking into at least.


 7 years out and maintaining 190 pounds lost!  

“You don't drown by falling in the water.  You drown by staying there.”


on 3/18/10 3:32 pm
The only suggestion I have for you is to contact someone like Discovery Health and see if you can get some sort of a deal where they film you all through the process. I've seen a few documentaries like that, but I don't know if the total cost of the surgery was covered.

You have a BMI of 81---I'd think you can get on Social Security Disability and get Medicare. There's a two-year waiting period on Medicare, I think, but in the meantime you should qualify for Medicaid once you're considered disabled.

And I'd REALLY look into the DS!