I have nowhere else to turn. My life has been completely changed since my daughter was born with a heart defect. She was born two years ago, and since that time has been in and out of Children’s Hospital multiple times. We have medical bills we will be making payments on for years. The stress of the constant medical care and endless sleepless nights took its toll on my marriage. My husband left four months ago due to the stress. He lost his job right before he left me, because of the many days he missed at work when we were at the hospital. He finally started a new job this week, so hopefully he will be able to begin paying child support soon. Unfortunately the child support will come too late to prevent our eviction. I have been unable to pay our rent or utilities for the past three months. The small amount of money my husband gave us was used for food and gas to get to my daughter’s doctor appointments. It is impossible for me to work until she is more stable. I still have hope that my husband will return to us, and we remain close friends. If my daughter and I could just be given help with our overdue rent, we would be able to stay in our apartment, and I pray the doctors can fix my little girl.
Caring for a sick child is draining, both physically and financially. When you have to choose between your job or your child having you by their side as they undergo sometimes painful and scary procedures, is a decision no parent wants to have to make. Over the past 30 years, we have helped many mothers and fathers so they would be able to be by their child’s side while they went through medical procedures. The fear and heartache over these procedures was eased by knowing we together were there to help make that time a little easier for them.
I contacted the mother who wrote this letter of request. She was very relieved to hear that I was the unrecognized number on her phone, not her landlord or other bill collector. We talked for about 20 minutes before she had to go to care for her daughter. I told her I would call back in a while to talk some more. We did this several times before we were able to share enough information over the phone to proceed further.
An important thing I did learn in those short conversations was that she and her husband were working on reconciling. This would be good news for their family, as this child would need both parents there as she went through her continuing medical care. Another important thing I found out was her daughter would soon be eligible for an important surgery that could put her on the way to a more normal and healthy life. These two things gave the mother hope for a better future. I told the mother I would like to meet with all of them, so we made arrangements for my visit after her husband got off work.
Later that day I arrived to meet the mother, father and daughter. The mother was waiting by the door when I walked up. I could tell she was anxious and not sure of what to expect. I shook her hand and introduced myself, and after a few moments of talking, her anxiety seemed to ease. She let me in the apartment, and there I met the father as he was watching their daughter play on the living room floor. The little girl seemed a little shy, hiding behind her father. The mother said she tends to be shy of new people, as she meets so many people that either poke her or take her for tests. How heartbreaking that a 2-year-old already is going through what most people don’t have to endure until they become senior citizens. She played quietly while we talked close by.
I asked the father about his new job, and he shared the good news that it was working out great. The steady income and health insurance for his family was just what they needed to get back on their feet. They had been paying out of pocket for their own health insurance, and that expense was very difficult for them to pay without income. The mother told me how they had sold her car and some furniture to keep up with the payments, as losing their health insurance would have been a disaster. The mother said it was already difficult just keeping up with the high deductibles each year, and when her husband had been employed they were not eligible for Medicaid or Badger care. The mother had a stack of overdue bills ready to show me, as we had discussed these things over the phone. I asked if they minded if I looked through the bills, and both the husband and wife told me to go ahead.
As I looked over the overdue utility bills, rent notices, late car payment and medical bills, I made notes on my pad of paper. I asked what they had for income, and the father told me his new pay. When I did the math, I could see they would be able to pay these bills going forward, but would never be able to catch up on their overdue rent, car payment and utilities. These expenses would cause them to continually spiral down into poverty each month. That is why we always bring overdue rent current, or our fellow creations are not getting the fresh start they need to succeed going forward.
While I spoke with the father, the mother was caring for her daughter. As they were out of ear shot, I boldly asked the father: “Do you think you can be here for them? Do you have what it takes to be a good supportive man, a caring father? Your family needs you right now more than ever. Your daughter and wife have to come first, or they will suffer in poverty.”
I expected a little anger from the father over my words, but instead I was surprised to see tears. The father looked down and tried to wipe them away, but I knew he was crying. He finally said: “You are right. I feel so ashamed for leaving them alone for those months. I was being selfish, and only thinking about my own needs, not my wife’s or daughter’s. I have begged her forgiveness and made a promise to be there for them both. I can’t walk away from them again.”
It was just what I was hoping to hear, and I made a silent prayer to God that he would fulfill his promise and keep strong to his marriage vows.
The husband wiped away his tears when his wife walked over to join our conversation again. I watched as he reached over to hold her hand, and was happy to see her grasp his hand in return. As the mother had shared, they had very little family support I knew they would need each other to get through the months and years to come. I asked them both: “Are you both able to support each other through this, and in the future? Can your love be strong enough to withstand whatever comes your way?”
I watched as they both looked at each other, and said, “Yes.” We all smiled and I said, “Cherish these simple moments, and no matter what you are going through, make sure you take the time to let each other know you are there for them.” They both said they would and hugged each other as the husband told her how much he loved her and how he would never abandon them again.
I went over the list of expenses we would be helping them with. When I shared how our donors made all our good works possible, the mother said: “I can’t believe you are able to help us like this. I have been so stressed over our pending eviction, and I was expecting our car to be repossessed any day now. It has added so much stress to our already worry-filled lives. I don’t know how to thank you and your donors.”
The woman began to cry, and I watched as the little girl walked over to her mother and tried to wipe away her tears, saying, “Don’t cry Mommy.” I watched as the mother tenderly lifted her onto her lap, hugged her daughter and said, “I love this girl so much.”
When the little girl walked back to her toys, we talked about the daughter’s heart defect and upcoming surgery. It would be the first of several surgeries as she grew, but each one would help to improve her heart and her many symptoms. I could only imagine what it would be like to watch your child endure open heart surgery, but I had some comfort in knowing the financial stress they were going through would be gone, thanks to all of you. The pending eviction would be halted, their utilities would not be disconnected, and they would still have their car so the husband could get to work and take the daughter to her medical appointments. We also provided gift cards for additional food, toiletries and clothing for the little girl. These were received with even more gratitude and tears. The father wiped his eyes again as he said several times, “Thank you, thank you.”
This assistance happened several months ago, and the little girl continues to improve. The mother called to let me know her first surgery was a success. It also was difficult and painful and all things you would expect a two-year-old child’s open heart surgery to be, but with much prayer and positive thoughts and having a committed spouse by their side, they were able to get through it together.
I am so grateful we could be there for this family as they struggled with many difficult situations. I am thankful for you and your support that allowed us to be able to remove the pains of poverty and give them a glimmer of hope for their future.
Thank you and God bless you for all we accomplish together to ease the pains of poverty in our communities.
Health & happiness, love & God bless everyone, Sal