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Western New York Woman Shares Story of Triumph, Wins National Faces of Fearless Award

BlueCross BlueShield Member Beats the Odds with the help of Her Family, Doctors and Health Plan

November 13, 2018

Buffalo, NY BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York member and Western New York Native, Karen Cantafio recently received the 2018 Faces of Fearless℠ award, a national competition that recognizes individuals who fearlessly persevere, triumph and inspire as they overcome health challenges.

Karen’s story was one of two selected by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association out of 175 video and written entries from 23 Blue Cross Blue Shield plans nationwide.  Submissions highlighted member’s real-life stories about the challenges they overcame and how their local health plan helped them live a healthier life.  

Her journey began in January 2017 when she suffered a severe brain aneurysm, a life-threatening condition that affects 30,000 people annually in the United States.  After an emergency brain surgery, Karen remained in the intensive care unit fighting for her life for months before beginning an intense physical therapy regimen.

In order to defy the odds, Karen and her husband Joe leaned on the support of their family, community, doctors and their health plan to help them establish and navigate a very overwhelming recovery process.

“That first week, the inpatient care coordinator from BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York introduced herself and explained that BlueCross BlueShield was there for us,” said Joe Cantafio, Karen’s husband. “Their team took care of everything, answering questions, attending hospital meetings with us and making sure Karen was getting the care she needed. Knowing we were not alone gave us the reassurance to get through this.”

“It’s about being there for our members when they need us most,” said Dave Anderson, President and CEO, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York. “For over 80 years, BlueCross BlueShield has been partnering with local doctors and hospitals to coordinate high-quality care, and we’ll continue to do so to ensure that our members have a fearless future.”

During her recovery, Karen re- learned to walk, talk and do simple daily tasks. She said she was motivated to push harder whenever she was told she couldn’t. “It was especially important for my kids to see that nothing was going to stop me,” she said.   

Despite the odds that brain aneurysms are fatal in 40% of cases and of those who survive, about 66% suffer some permanent neurological deficit; Karen has recently returned to work full-time and walked two 5Ks within nearly one year.

"The Faces of Fearless℠ campaign is our commitment to celebrating people who are overcoming challenges to live their healthiest lives," said Scott Serota, president and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.   

Karen and Joe received the award recently from Anderson and Serota at a special ceremony. As a Faces of Fearless winner, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association awarded Karen and her family with round-trip airfare to Orlando, a hotel stay, and passes to Disney World Theme Park.

View Karen's full story here.