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Grant helps local family find peace during scary time

Posted March 24

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— Looking at 4-year-old Max Bridgers running and playing with his brother Del, it is hard to imagine the challenges he's had in his short life.

Max’s mother knew during her pregnancy he would face a life of medical hurdles.

"We knew at 17 weeks that there could be something wrong with his heart," said Max's mother, Sarah Bridgers. "I said, 'What's that chance that he'll need some kind of operation after he's born?' And he said, '100 percent.'"

Max has a rare form of Down Syndrome. He was born with two holes in his heart and a defect in his heart valve.

"Scary. Very scary," Sarah Bridgers said. "And kind of devastating because you’re expecting a healthy baby. We come from healthy genes."

"We feel like we were young, and we were trying to do it at an early age so that we wouldn't have to go through any of these complications," said Max's dad, Brian Bridgers.

Faced with mounting medical bills and heart surgery on the horizon, Sarah started looking everywhere for financial help.

"I Googled and searched through websites thinking there has got to be something that helps people that are over the poverty line but that still have a lot of medical expenses," she said.

The family came across the United Healthcare Children's Foundation which awards grants for medical services not always covered by insurance.

The Bridgerses were awarded a grant of $2,500 - relief right before a successful heart surgery.

"Within a couple of day he was up and trying to run around, and the doctor said he couldn't hurt himself by doing that," said Brian Bridgers. "You'd be amazed. Running around after two weeks, and now he's walking and trying to talk a little bit. He's grown a lot. That heart surgery helped in a lot with his strength and energy."

"He's so happy, and he loves to run around. He loves to laugh, and he loves to play with dinosaurs," Sarah Bridgers said. "He's just a really happy kid that's brought a lot to our family."

In 2016, the United Healthcare Children's Foundation awarded 67 medical grants to families in North Carolina, totaling more than $118,000.

To raise money toward the cause, the foundation will hold a fundraising bike ride. The Tour De Triangle Century Ride is Saturday in Cary. Riders can choose a 62 or 100-mile course.

To be eligible for a grant, children must be 16 years of age or younger. Families must meet economic guidelines, reside in the United States and have a commercial health insurance plan. Families do not need to have insurance through United Healthcare to be eligible. Qualifying families can receive up to $5,000 annually per child.

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