The night Ashley Moser was shot at the Century 16 Aurora movie theater, she lost her daughter, use of much of her body and the ability to be financially independent.
Like many victims, Moser, whose daughter was killed in the shooting and who later suffered a miscarriage, will face mental and physical trauma that will lead to a lifetime of medical costs. Her family and others will have to find their way through dozens of victim assistance funds and a maze of medical bills.
"It is going to cost a small fortune," said Mary Ellen Hansen, Moser's aunt. "She won't be able to work anymore. Her entire lifestyle is going to change."
Caring for a gunshot wound victim who is hospitalized for four to seven days can cost up to $56,000, according to Douglas Arvin, vice president and chief financial officer at University of Cincinnati Health.
Follow-up care at an inpatient rehab facility can cost as much as $240,000 a year, said Frank Darras, an insurance attorney who has represented victims of Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. Seeing a psychiatrist can cost up to $400 an hour, and medications can average $100 a month even with the best insurance, he said.
Ten people remain hospitalized after the July 20 massacre that killed 12 people and injured 58. James Holmes, 24, is charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.
The responding Denver-area hospitals say they plan to limit and in some cases eliminate the bills of some patients. The Aurora Victim Relief Fund has already raised $3.6 million. Internet campaigns and social media pitches have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.
After such mass tragedies, hospitals and people sympathetic to victims often pour resources into helping meet immediate needs, Darras said. The real struggle comes once the nation's attention shifts. "It's going to be a nightmare to keep track of all of these bills and copays," he said. "They wind up in the process getting beat up and worn down."
Carolyn Tuft, 50, knows the feeling. She and eight other people were shot five years ago at a mall in Salt Lake City. Her daughter, Kirsten Hinckley, 15, died.
The hospital wrote off more than $100,000 in immediate care costs for Tuft, who was not insured and shot twice. About $10,000 from a fund for victims and gifts from friends paid expenses for a year after the shooting.
Since then, Tuft has struggled. "It's completely destroyed my credit and my life," Tuft said. "I can't rent an apartment or buy a car because of my medical bills." She's in debt about $12,000 from visits to pain specialists, physical therapists, and other costs.
"I've been feeling really bad for these Aurora people," Tuft said. "They have no idea what they are in for -- what is going to happen to their lives. When all the hype dies down, people forget that we are still here."
Eirz Scott's son, Jarell Brooks, 18, was hit in the leg during the Aurora shooting. "I am worried about how much we're going to owe -- how much money all these medical expenses are going to cost and being responsible for all of these bills," said Scott, 42.
She said she has tried to get information about victim funds but has learned little about how to access them. A Web page for Brooks has raised about $5,000. It's one of several personal pitches hosted on various websites.
A Web page for another victim, Caleb Medley, who was shot in the head, has raised more than $369,000. A page for Petra Anderson, also shot in the head, and her mother, who is a cancer patient, has raised $254,000.
The six hospitals that treated the victims say they plan to work with patients to offset costs on a case-by-case basis. Some said they would limit or eliminate bills entirely.
Officials in Colorado are hoping to pool and distribute donations for victims based on recommendations by hospital workers, the Aurora police department, the local district attorney's office, and Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance, said Cheryl Haggstrom of Community First Foundation.
Her organization and the office of Gov. John Hickenlooper are coordinating the Aurora Victim Relief Fund. It was also part of an advisory group that decided how to distribute donations after the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School.
Moser was planning to begin nursing classes in the fall to give her the financial independence to support herself and 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, who was killed in the shootings. Now, she will be unable to take those classes or work in nursing, Hansen said.
Her rehabilitation and living expenses will be greatly affected by her paralysis. After fearing she would have no movement below the neck, Hansen said doctors now believe the 25-year-old may eventually have some movement above the waist.
Her family is sorting through assistance funds that have been set up for her to determine which will be the official fund. "We appreciate that people want to be generous and want to do something," Hansen said. "We've had a lot of people ask about donations, but they want to be assured it's getting to Ashley."
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