PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Garrett Williamson loved baseball, swimming with his sister and fishing with his grandfather.
But most of all, the 14-year-old loved life. Losing him has taken some of the life out of his family.
“While you’re sitting there beside your son as he’s losing his life, that’s not the time to talk about money,” Brandy Williamson, Garrett’s mother, said.
While battling T-cell lymphoma in the intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital for three months, Garrett’s parents say Children’s Hospital bill collectors called them four times.
“I said, ‘We are in Children’s Hospital, we’re in the ICU,’” Chris Williamson said. “I said, ‘My son is very sick. I would appreciate it if you do not call me back.’”
Garrett died at Children’s Hospital a few weeks ago. Chris and Brandy Williamson buried their son, got home from the funeral and in a pile of letters on the table found a letter from UPMC.
It was a collections notice demanding payment of more than $6,000 for Garrett’s medical bills.
“I buried my son yesterday. I’m full of grief and I’m angry – I’m angry that UPMC doesn’t give families the respect that they deserve in such a horrible, horrible time,” Brandy Williamson said.
“Your grieving immediately turns to anger. You feel like you have your respect and dignity taken from you.
“You feel that your son is no longer considered the human being that he was, that he’s a balance due. It hurts,” Chris Williamson added.
When made aware of the problem at Children’s Hospital with Garrett Williamson, UPMC says it assembled a team to immediately address the situation.
In a statement, spokesman Paul Wood said: “We’re immediately implementing a more rigorous 30-day Do Not Call process …” for folks with a terminally-ill loved one.
UPMC has also reached out to the family to “express our condolences and to apologize.”
UPMC is also working with the family’s insurance company in order to “minimize their personal liability.”
“It’s not about money. It’s not about us asking for money. It’s about respect,” Brandy said. “My son was more than just a balance due.”