Dyker Heights

Dyker Heights girl needs help paying for medicine

December 15, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Julia Bruzzese and her family waited at Kennedy Airport in October for Pope Francis to arrive. Their wait was worthwhile. The Pontiff blessed the wheelchair-bound girl. Photo courtesy of Agatha Alicandro
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The Bay Ridge Lawyers Association has stepped up to the plate to help a wheelchair-bound Dyker Heights girl who shows symptoms of Lyme disease but has been denied coverage by her family’s health insurance company.

Julia Bruzzese, 12, a student at St. Bernadette Catholic School, made news all over world back in October when she received a personal blessing from Pope Francis upon the Pontiff’s arrival at Kennedy Airport for his first-ever visit to New York City.

Now, her family needs another miracle.

“Julia initially became ill in May of 2015 and her condition has progressively gotten worse,” Stephen D. Chiano, director of the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association, wrote in an email to members.

“We want to do whatever we can to help this young lady and her family,” Chiano told the Brooklyn Eagle.

Julia, a once vibrant and athletic child, can no longer walk and cannot feel her legs, family friends said.

Dr. Ronald Stram, a physician in Upstate New York, who saw a television news report on Julia, agreed to treat her for free. Julia and her father, Enrico Bruzzese, are now living Upstate, away from the rest of the family.

The Bruzzeses’ insurance company, Emblem Health, has offered to pay for a PICC line to allow medication to be administered to her more easily, but has denied coverage for antibiotics that doctors said the youngster needs to have any chance at recovery, family friends said.

The antibiotics could cost $500 a week, according to estimates.

The hang-up, according to a report on NBC 4 New York, is that although Julia displays many of the symptoms of Lyme disease, she has not yet received a clinical diagnosis.

“The insurance company is denying coverage for this young lady’s treatment based on the current testing limitations available to doctors to definitively diagnose Lyme disease,” Chiano said.

Adding to the family’s agony, Julia is also showing symptoms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves, and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), a condition in which a change from the supine position to an upright position causes an abnormally large increase in the heart rate.

But help is coming from all corners of Brooklyn for the Bruzzese family.

The owners of Zitelli’s Restaurant, a popular Italian eatery at 8530 Third Ave. in Bay Ridge, are hosting a fundraiser at their restaurant on Wednesday, Dec. 16, starting at 6 p.m.

Several members of the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association will attend the fundraiser.

The Bruzzese family has also started a fundraiser drive to try to generate enough money to pay for Julia’s medications.

In a touching message on their Go Fund Me page, the Bruzzeses thanked donators for their support.

“You have given Julia strength; your love is Julia’s driving force! We would be lost without your extraordinary support!” the message reads.

Julia has undergone a few antibiotic treatments and is showing great promise, according to her family, who wrote in their message that “Julia has recently regained pins and needles sensations on the soles of both her feet.”

Approximately 300,000 people a year get Lyme disease in America, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Ninety-six percent of the cases are reported from just 14 states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Julia stated that she continues to draw strength from the Papal blessing she received at the airport.

“It means that he’s going to give me a miracle, to walk again. I know I will walk again because of him,” a tearful Julia told NBC 4 New York.


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