NBC 5 has seen how crushing medical debt can be for North Texans. Some of the lengths people are willing to go to avoid this financial epidemic are jaw-dropping.
For Arthur Wright, the football field used to be his second home. The Forney resident has been coaching youth football for more than 25 years.
"I have to see a psychiatrist to process everything that we've been through. It never stops," said Wright. "I was walking up and down the football field and I found that I couldn't make it from one end of the field to the other end."
Wright thought has breathing complications may have been due to the Texas heat, or perhaps, his diet.
He said he gave up drinking and eating red meat, but the problem continued.
In 2008, things got worse. He was admitted to the ER due to a heart attack, which was caused by congestive heart failure. Wright spent months going back and forth to the hospital for treatments, fighting for his life each day. But as his health continued to spiral out of control, so did the bills.
"You get billed from the hospital. You get billed from the surgeon," he explained. All those bills come in at the same time."
Bill after bill after bill, Wright said his medical debt has gotten so bad he stopped trying to keep up.
"We are somewhere in between half a million and one million dollars in debt right now," Wright said.
And his health problems would take yet another nose dive. After a failed medical procedure, doctors informed Wight that he'd need a heart transplant to live. But Wright's health problems are only part of the story.
"They would let him go home and he would literally have to drive me to the hospital with a Crohn's flair due to the stress of him getting sick," said CaTrina Wright.
His wife is dealing with her own medical battle with Crohn's disease and debt that keeps on growing.
"Each hospital stay was thousands of dollars, which I couldn't pay," she said. "I was on a lot of medicine. The medicine ran about $1100. I have to see a psychiatrist to process everything that we've been through. It never stops."
The couple lost their house and their cars, and in 2011, they made a decision that still haunts them to this day: bankruptcy.
"Honestly, to be honest with you, the possibility of filing bankruptcy again is probably going to be on the table," Arthur said.
Medical debt is the single largest cause of bankruptcy in America.
But credit counselors told NBC 5 it should be seen as a last resort
It can stay on your credit record for up to 10 years and could make it more difficult to obtain credit in the future.
"if you have a $100 medical debt on your credit report, it can drop 30-100 points. That puts you out of a mortgage, puts you up on the chart for insurance," said Chris Antico, a former debt collector.
Antico has seen credit scores tank time and time again. Wright told us his credit score has dropped to 369.
"That's even depressing to look at," he said.
Between his credit score and constant medical debt, Wright's optimism has run its course.
"Because tomorrow, I don't know if I'm going to be here. I have no idea. I have no faith that I'm going to get a transplant. I have no faith that I'm going to live tomorrow," he said.
If that day comes, he said he's willing to do whatever he can so his wife and son aren't left with his medical debt burdens.
"We don't really have a plan," he said. I'm a man. I should be working. I should be able to take care of my family. I feel like I'm less of a man.
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