by Byron Pitts and Nikki Battiste
September 30, 2013
Joy Guion was boarding a plane for the first time to fly from her native North Carolina to Costa Rica, a sun-soaked tourism hot spot where she would stay in a four-star hotel with a personal concierge and a local driver.
But the 39-year-old utility worker from Hickory, N.C., wasn’t going to Costa Rica for vacation. At 5-foot-9 and 283 pounds, Guion has “severe chronic obesity” and a family history of diabetes and heart disease, and she was headed to a Costa Rican hospital for weight loss surgery.
Gary Harwell, a 65-year-old retired manager who used to work at the same plant as Guion, accompanied her on the trip to Costa Rica. He was getting a knee replacement at the same private hospital, Hospital Clinica Biblica.
And neither will have to pay a dime for treatment. Travel expenses, surgeries and post-op recovery are all being covered by the company they work for.
Guion and Harwell work for HSM, a furniture and auto parts manufacturer in western North Carolina. The company gave Guion a choice for this surgery: Pay a co-pay in the U.S. or outsource the procedure abroad for free.
“Nothing out of my pocket,” Guion said.