Hospital Hits Parents With $2,659 Bill for Pulling Doll Shoe Out of 3-Year-Old's Nose

Lucy Branson
Heidi de Marco/KHN

For whatever reason, kids love putting things up their nose. Pennies, their fingers ... and in the case of one unfortunate family from Las Vegas, a pair of Polly Pocket shoes. Apparently, 3-year-old Lucy Branson tucked the pair of shoes neatly inside her nostrils before her parents, Katy and Michael Branson, were due to have a night on the town back in April. But once they realized the toddler couldn't breathe, they wound up spending the night in the ER instead. Seven months after the incident, they are still fighting their insurance company over the $2,659 medical bill they were hit with -- all for a visit that took seconds.

  • The Bransons were getting dressed to see a show April 27 when Lucy came into their bedroom coughing and looking uncomfortable.

    As Michael recently told NPR, he was able spot where the trouble was coming from right away.

    "I think she has something up her nose," he recalled telling his wife.

    Lucy couldn't explain why she decided to shove a pair of pink Polly Pocket shoes up her nose, but they were definitely lodged all the way up there.

    Her parents first tried blowing air in her nose to try to get the shoes out, but nothing budged. Then Katy found a pair of tweezers and was able to break one of the shoes free. But the other was still stuck.

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  • Michael decided it was time to get a professional involved, so he rushed Lucy to a nearby urgent care center.

    But urgent care doctors weren't able to nab the shoe, either, and soon recommended the Bransons bring Lucy to the emergency room. Once there, doctors were able to remove the shoe in less than a second using a longer set of tweezers (aka forceps, in medical terms). Lucy's doctor told them that removing a pair of doll shoes was a first for him -- usually he uses the forceps to remove Tic Tacs.

    "All in all, it was an eventful evening," Katy shared. "My husband makes it back, we go to the show, my daughter's fine."

  • The incident should have become a funny family story to tell for years, but once the bill arrived, no one was laughing.

    Although Lucy, who has since turned 4, is insured through her father's high-deductible plan with UnitedHealthcare, the bill totaled $2,658.98 -- $1,732 for the hospital and $926.98 for the physician.

    The Bransons were able to negotiate with their insurance company to pay only half their physician's bill, so long as they paid within 20 days. But their health insurance still had no explanation for how they came up with amounts for the $1,732 for the hospital visit -- $1,143 for the emergency and $589 to remove the shoe.

    "Not every urgent situation is an emergency," a St. Rose Dominican hospital representative told NPR in an emailed statement. "It is important for patients to understand the terms of their health insurance before seeking treatment. For example, those with high-deductible plans may want to consider urgent care centers in nonemergency situations."

  • The entire $1,732 was applied against the couple's deductible. 

    This baffles the Bransons, who still are looking for more detailed answers from their insurance company.

    "It's not even so much that we can't pay that if we absolutely have to," Katy explained to NPR. "It doesn't make sense that it costs that much. A human being needs to look at this and say, 'Why are we charging $3,000 to take a Barbie shoe out of the kid's nose?'"

    The mom joked that she doesn't even own a pair of shoes that cost $3,000.

    "Well, apparently, now I have one," she said. "But they're not in my closet; they're in the playroom."

    CafeMom reached out to St. Rose Dominican Hospitals for comment, but as of this reporting has not heard back.

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