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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 May, 2004, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
"I lived without part of my skull"
Briana Lane
Briana felt her brain "shift during the night"
Briana Lane is recovering from surgery - after living with only "half of her skull" for months.

The 22-year-old from Midvale, Utah, US, was injured in a car accident in January this year, AP agency reports.

Doctors had to remove part of her skull during surgery, leaving just skin and sutures covering almost half her head.

She remained that way for four months while the hospital and her health insurance program Medicaid argued over who should pay for her surgery.

Briana feels lucky to have survived the accident but says living without a portion of her skull was "excruciating".

When she woke up in the morning, she would notice how her brain had shifted during the night to one side.

She was given a plastic street hockey helmet to wear during the day for protection.

Briana said: "You'd think they could give me something more protective. Like a skull, perhaps."

Funding wrangle

Despite being released from the hospital in February, Briana's skull remained in a hospital freezer until April while the paperwork passed back and forth.

Briana Lane
You'd think they could give me something more protective - like a skull
Briana Lane
She now has no hearing in her right ear and speaks in a soft, raspy voice, having damaged her throat after repeatedly ripping out oxygen tubes while under medication.

Briana, who is unemployed, blames the delay in her surgery to bureaucratic red tape between the University of Utah Health Sciences Center and Medicaid.

Unable to pay for the surgery herself, she finally contacted a local television station - and she believes that was what finally led to her surgery taking place.

"All of a sudden - top of the list!"

Anne Brillinger. a spokeswoman for the hospital said she could not comment on specific cases.

But, she said uninsured, low-income patients must wait for a Medicaid disability ruling to come through, which takes around 90 days.

Doctors can bring surgery forward by classing the patient an emergency but the patient would still be responsible for payment.

She denied the surgery had taken place because of media interest in the case, saying it was the "ideal" time for the operation.

Medicaid had refused to pay for Briana's surgery after it decided she did not meet the insurance programme's disability criteria.

It is still not clear who will pay for Briana's operation.

Robert Knudson, Utah Department of Health's director of eligibility services, said: "It's not trying to be bureaucratic about it but it is a requirement of the programme." He said Briana's financial situation was not unique.

'No different'

Since her operation, over a week ago, Briana is beginning a normal life again. The frequency of blackouts and dizziness are decreasing and simple tasks like bending down are no longer unbearably painful.

Her experience has angered Briana, who says people on low income should not be denied surgery they need.

"Just because they don't have money doesn't mean they should be treated differently from anyone else. I'm a good person, I just happen to be not as rich as some of them."

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