Real stories from real people whose anonymity we are preserving as they struggle to endure this modern economic catastrophe.
"Keeping it together..."
The last year has been very challenging for our family. My husband is a self-employed window installer. He was the main breadwinner for our family. With the loss of auto jobs and other job losses in Michigan, we lost a lot of our customers.
I am an RN, with my BSN. I had been working part-time, three eight-hour days one week and four days another. We have two children, now 15 and 14. My daughter is special needs. Her diagnosis is BOFS and moderate cognitive impairment, hearing impaired. She only has 30 percent hearing in her left ear, and is speech-impaired with cerebral palsy. In the last year we have found she has a bleeding disorder as well. This caused an emergency admission to the hospital among her many other appointments for other specialists. But we have declining coverage of hearing aids, and rising prescription costs and doctor co-pays. Juggling this with a son who is very healthy, but still has needs as well, can be challenging alone.
Last September we realized that there was no way I could afford to work part time without risking our home, and made huge changes in our lifestyle. My husband continues to work hard to keep our business going, but this really affects self-esteem, and can cause a lot of depression, anxiety, and increased stress. There is no doubt that the economic hardship in our society has played a role in our families’ lives. I am just thankful to have the career I have.
— Dearborn Heights, Michigan
"The spirit of giving..."
My younger brother has been battling cancer for the last two years. He is now coming to the end of his time here on earth. I have come to be with him and with my niece and nephews to help them care for him at home. There is a hospice nurse, Marilyn, who comes every morning for four hours to help with ADLS and give us moral support. While we were clearing the kitchen table we found a disconnect notice from the power company. The bill was $119. This morning Marilyn came and gave me $120 to pay the bill. I told her it was greatly appreciated but I could pay the bill myself. She refused to take the money back.
This nurse is 70 years old and her husband is retired. He collects scrap metal and the money they make from scrapping they use to help people who are less fortunate. I have not been able to stop welling up with tears for her unselfish generosity. She has only known my family for one week. She is an angel sent to help ease our pain at the loss of a loved one; she fills us with faith and the true meaning of love.
— Chicago, Illinois
"A lifetime of work..."
I am a 56-year-old registered nurse. I have been a nurse for 28 years. I always had a steady job and was able to raise my four children without much economic difficulty. Approximately 2.5 years ago I suddenly went into renal failure and had to start dialysis. I had to have several surgical procedures and was unable to return to work.
Unfortunately, I had just started a new job and was eligible for minimal disability. For the first time since I had purchased my home, I found myself unable to afford my mortgage payment. I receive Social Security disability and that is not enough to pay my bills, which include paying for my Medicare insurance, my prescription insurance, and huge co-pays on some very expensive medication. And, oh yeah, I have to eat. There seems to be no help from the government for me. I don’t even qualify for food stamps because my annual income is $2,000 over the limit.
I am not strong enough to return to work in my field and even if I were, I have strict guidelines on the amount of money I can make before my benefits are affected. And I need my insurance because, with my existing condition, I am pretty much uninsurable. My dialysis treatments cost over $25,000 per month. I have worked and paid taxes into this system for over 40 years, yet I am treated like a charity case begging for help. I am severely frustrated and disappointed in my country that allows a taxpayer of so many years to suffer the way I do. I shouldn’t have to choose whether I eat or buy the medicines I need.
— Memphis, Tennessee
"That could be me..."
During a recent shift as a charge nurse I was happy to learn that one of the patients wanted to compliment her RN for the care she received. The patient, who was in her 50s, was eloquent and carried herself elegantly, shaking my hand when I entered the room. A former executive secretary for more than 30 years, she penned her comment card in a beautiful handwritten script. Later that shift, I realized that the patient was the same person I had seen on the boards two weeks ago but never met: a homeless woman. I would have never suspected that this former executive secretary with impeccable penmanship was the same homeless woman if it weren’t written right there in the charts.
The discovery brought me to tears. I went back to visit the patient and learn her story. It’s an all-too-common one: After losing her job, she lost her healthcare, then lost her home and her family. The face of homelessness in America has changed. We have prototypes in our heads of what homeless people should look like, but they look like you and me. Her story also struck a nerve for me because some years ago, after a back injury at work, my husband and I also struggled to pay $1,400 a month in COBRA premiums to maintain our health insurance while I was on medical leave. I was just crushed by this woman, thinking that could be me.
— San Bernardino, California