Back in September, Jody Covalt took a $19,000 helicopter trip.
It wasn’t exactly a joy ride.
Two months after some blisters on Covalt’s feet burst, he became gravely ill. A doctor diagnosed the flesh-eating virus, and ordered a chopper to take him to Hershey.
As the 50-year-old Millheim resident boarded the helicopter, the doctor informed his wife that he had a five percent chance of living through the flight. The rest of his family, including his three children, rushed to the hospital, wondering if they were saying goodbye.
Miraculously, Covalt lived. The doctors amputated his leg—“they asked my wife: ‘life or limb?’”—and stopped the virus from attacking the rest of his body.
The ordeal is a testament to the power of modern medicine (not to mention, if you ask Covalt, God—he had a lot people praying for him, he said.)
But it also underscores something else about the medical system: When you’re a patient lacking insurance, the save-my-life package doesn’t come cheap.
Covalt, who cuts logs and drives the Amish for a living, is still tallying up the expenses. But he’s already looking at thousands of dollars, and that doesn’t include the prosthesis that he’s getting fitted for soon.
“I kid people that the helicopter ride cost me a leg, and that I had to drive back to Hershey because I didn’t want it to cost an arm and a leg,” he said.
Fortunately, for every bill that arrives, another friend seems to “pop out of the woodwork” to help.
This Thanksgiving Covalt will get a boost from strangers, too.
The Diner is donating the revenue from its annual $.50 Thanksgiving meal to the Covalt family. Starting at 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, the Diner, 126 W. College Ave., State College, will serve turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, corn stuffing and cranberry sauce to between 1,500 and 2,000 people, said Tommy Everetts, the bakery manager. "We serve until 8 p.m.— or until we run out," he said.
Nearly 30 volunteers help out. “It’s a tradition,” Everetts said. “A lot of people come here to donate their time, then go home to have their meal.”
Covalt is sticking close to home, but the Diner and its patrons won’t be far from his thoughts. “I’m overwhelmed,” he said. “I can’t say thanks enough.”