His first migraine hit almost three years ago. At the time, Nick Walden Poublon didn’t understand what caused it. He was a 24-year-old college student with an active lifestyle and a clean bill of health. The migraines became more frequent and intense. Walden Poublon was thrust into a life of endless doctor’s appointments and mounting physical pain. His arms and legs would ache, the pain radiating through his body.
His first migraine hit almost three years ago. At the time, Nick Walden Poublon didn’t understand what caused it. He was a 24-year-old college student with an active lifestyle and a clean bill of health.
The migraines became more frequent and intense. Walden Poublon was thrust into a life of endless doctor’s appointments and mounting physical pain. His arms and legs would ache, the pain radiating through his body.
Walden Poublon, the university affairs director of the PSU student government, said he deals with this pain each day of his life–pain caused by a sickness with no name, that no doctors before ones at Portland State had been able to explain.
“There are good days and bad days,” he said.
A reason for advocacy
Walden Poublon, 27, purchases the extended insurance plan from the Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) at a cost of nearly $700 a term to help cover the costs associated with his condition. In addition, he must purchase close to $800 worth of shots and pills each month out of his own pocket to help alleviate his health problems, only to wait for a reimbursement check from the PSU insurance provider.
His personal struggles with health are just one of many reasons Walden Poublon is concerned with who will take over as the Portland State insurance provider at the health center next year.
Walden Poublon has organized an on-campus forum on Friday for students to give feedback to the two companies that control health insurance at PSU, discussing how the university’s health insurance program has affected them.
The forum, which will be from noon to 1 p.m. in Smith Memorial Student Union, room 294, is a response to the rise in the cost of the extended insurance plan this year. The extended coverage, which rose by as little as $173 and as much as $387 over the last year, is an optional insurance package that students can buy in addition to the mandatory PSU health insurance.
Students without outside coverage and students with serious health issues, such as Walden Poublon, are often advised to buy the extended package.
Walden Poublon, as a member of student government, is currently working with administrators at SHAC to keep extended insurance costs low, and better the PSU health care process.
The value of insurance
For Walden Poublon, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in English history, the extended plan has been a savior. A doctor at SHAC made the first breakthrough about his condition, discovering that Walden Poublon’s pituitary gland–a pea-sized gland at the bottom of the brain that produces hormones–was not working as it should.
This could mean that Walden Poublon has a tumor on the gland. It could also mean an unknown number of other problems.
One thing it did mean was that Walden Poublon’s pituitary gland was not producing enough testosterone for many years of his life. Doctors told Walden Poublon that this could have caused muscle and bone damage-the most likely source of his daily pain.
Because he has the extended insurance plan at SHAC, Walden Poublon has been able to see multiple doctors, including pain management specialists.
“I owe a lot to the PSU health insurance. It’s not a great system, and I’m the first one to say that it’s broken and it’s not working–the extended health care,” he said, “but at the same time, it’s the quality of the insurance once you can pay for it, and if you can afford it, it’s so great that I’ve been able to survive off all of it.”
Walden Poublon said as far as he knows the condition is not fatal. It will merely cause him the daily dose of pain that he already deals with, he said.
This week, it’s likely that you’ll see Walden Poublon marching around Portland State posting fliers about his forum on Friday aimed at fixing the PSU health care system.
His advocacy for lower health care costs barely touches on the breadth of issues Walden Poublon is involved in on campus. He is a member of six all-university committees that discuss topics ranging from space allocation in Smith Memorial Student Union to overview of graduate programs at PSU.
He said he spends more than 40 hours a week working on many other issues pertinent to the university and to students in a student government position that asks for 20 hours of work.
In addition to the hours of work Walden Poublon commits to student government and his graduate studies, he holds a position as a graduate mentor for the University Studies program. He said he hopes to eventually teach history to college students, after he graduates with his master’s and doctoral degrees.
A history of involvement
Walden Poublon became involved on campus long before his work in student government.
He started by taking a job in the Center for Academic Excellence two years ago, when he was an undergraduate student studying history. By the time Walden Poublon was set to graduate, he had worked in various areas of the university, including the honorary degree committee during his senior year. He was selected as one of two commencement speakers when he graduated with his bachelor’s from PSU in June 2007.
Walden Poublon is accustomed to working hard. He has held a job since the age of 13, when he used to help his stepfather, a dairy farmer, milk cows.
Since then, he has worked as a sandwich artist at Subway, a waiter, a salesman and an actor.
The only thing Walden Poublon said he can’t do is dance.
“I really don’t know left from right.”
Walden Poublon lived in Eugene, Ore., his whole life, until 2004 when he moved to Portland to be with his partner of six years, Lance.
Now, all he is trying to do is merely pace himself by not working too hard, yet still making positive change at Portland State. One way he plans to do that is by helping make health insurance more affordable.
“It’s very much a personal, not a crusade, but a personal mission,” Walden Poublon said, adding that before he first became sick, he had visited the doctor no more than four times. “Everyone thinks they’re invincible.”