Reporter's Notebook: Behind the coverage

By Staci Matlock
Posted 8/22/19

The story of Roberto and Susana Molina came to us from a nearby business owner who knew of their struggles. Initially, we thought it was a simple story of one family's hardships after an unexpected …

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Reporter's Notebook: Behind the coverage

Posted

This is a companion piece to be read with the story of Roberto Molina Reyes and his wife Susana

The story of Roberto and Susana Molina came to us from a nearby business owner who knew of their struggles.

Initially, we thought it was a simple story of one family's hardships after an unexpected medical emergency. We thought the story might generate donations to a GoFundMe site that would help Roberto pay for some of the ongoing expenses not covered by health insurance such as food, gas and car maintenance.

But it was soon apparent the story was about much more - a husband's devotion, the power of faith and the untenable position any of us can find ourselves in when making decisions for loved ones.

The story also is about the frustrations common in dealing with the medical system that are simply a reality of its complexity. One consequence of the complexity was Roberto's struggle to obtain his wife's medical records. He had an option that did not require a power of attorney, but medical records staff apparently didn't know of the alternatives that would allow him to legally obtain the records without the hospital violating federal law.

Hospitals and health care facilities are under strict rules to protect patient privacy. As journalists, we needed to respect those rules and policies while still doing our job. Communications directors at two of the hospitals helped walk us through the policies. As Susana's representative, Roberto Molina signed waivers giving the hospital and the newspaper permission to take photos and to see a portion of her medical records - specifically those that spelled out her diagnosis to ensure we described it correctly.

At Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, a communications vice president met us in the lobby and escorted us to Susana Molina's room. We were not, however, per hospital policy, allowed to speak with doctors or other medical staff familiar with her situation.

Photographing a highly sensitive story such as this one requires a great deal of time and care. Morgan Timms spent time with Roberto in his shop, at his church, on his drive to Albuquerque and at health care facilities. She checked in with him frequently to ensure he was comfortable with the photos she was taking.

It was Roberto's hope, and ours, that the story would shed light on both where people caught in a medical maze can find help and some steps they can take to be prepared.

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