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Grant To Help RSD Disabled Woman Get Mobility Van And Dental Repair

by Gayle Hirschberger-Theaker
(Harrison Twp., Michigan, USA)

I am a 55-year-old woman who never stopped moving until 8:20 am September 13, 1999.

I was fortunate enough to see the world while married to an Air Force man for many years.

After we divorced I needed to care for myself. I always worked, any job any time, anything to pay my bills.

I have been recognized in the Who's Who in college students, been a Christian Music Artist, have had many poems published and hold copyright for a book "Patterns" a collection of all my poetry.

I graduated from a non-accredited high school, never took an ACT or SAT and ended up top 10% nationwide while attending university.

I grew up a daughter of a small dairy farmer rising every day at 4 am to milk the cows before my dad went to work and I went to school.

Then when I got off the bus after school quickly changing into chore clothes to head to the barn or fields to do the daily work required on a farm.

Disability Issues

In 1999, just a few months after my youngest brother passed away, I was at work doing inventory when an entire stack of soda and beer came down on top of me.

When it began to fall I covered my head but my neck and back remained exposed. It hurt, a lot.

After clearing the mess of over 200 pounds of bottles, broken glass and other debris off of me, I notified my boss and filled out the accident paperwork.

I requested that I be allowed to go home for the day, which was granted. I went to work at 5 am the next day regardless of how I felt.

After a week when the bruises were about healed I became concerned. I knew nothing was broken but the pain and burning was unbearable.

I did not miss work or shirk any duties but did request a couple more hours a week help by allowing me to schedule someone for seven more hours a week. That request was denied with a quick scowl.

Finally, when the pain was not easing up I broke down and went to a doctor. This doctor did not examine me. He just prescribed some medicine, which I took.

I continued working for the next five months, never missing a day or even an hour of work and always did my job.

Suddenly one morning, right after finishing the books and schedule and payroll my boss showed up and fired me. I was not given a reason but told to leave the store immediately.

When gathering my belongings I had to prove that the items were indeed mine, which I did because my growing discomfort (morality of the owner) with the company made me wary. I attached my receipts to everything that I did not submit for reimbursement that I paid for out of my pocket.

While trying to figure out how I was going to pay my bills and the pain steadily increasing, I got very ill and had to be rushed to the hospital with blood pressure so low, the ambulance personnel were afraid to let me sit up to lock my door.

Later on that day I was told I was bleeding internally from the medicine prescribed. I spent a week in the hospital and the first four days was not allowed to leave my bed or sit up.

During this time I had to also move out of my apartment, suffer the loss of my appliances that I was buying on time and try to find alternative, adequate medical care.

I was fortunate that this had happened as it introduced me to the best doctor I have ever known and my care was then transformed.

After a year I was finally diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) in my back and neck.

Because I was then on state medical care I was unable to follow up with the pain clinic. I was living part time in my car or sleeping around at friends' houses.

I had applied for Disability when the unemployment office told me that I could not collect because I was not able to work and I could not collect Social Security Disability because I was not considered disabled.

A three-year struggle ensued and finally after 12 exams by many different physicians I was awarded Social Security Disability at my administrative hearing, rarely heard of, and retroactive to the last day I worked.

It was too cold to spend another winter in my car in Michigan so I applied for low income housing and managed to get an apartment for $3 a month.

I was able to get food stamps and state medical for my medicine and health care and a small cash benefit, which I had to repay, once I got my SSDI benefits.

After two years I ended up in a wheelchair because I had fallen so many times. My doctor stepped in to protect me from those falls by prescribing a wheelchair.

In the last nine years I have become too weak to push a manual chair so I have a power chair.

I do walk as much as I can in the house, which is currently about 20 steps a couple times a day when I have to go to the bathroom. But I am extremely weak and always dizzy.

Financial Hardship

I managed my care and finances throughout this time by doing odd jobs with computers and being a client representative at my local mental health clinic and was reimbursed for my mileage and car expenses.

It was not easy considering I had worked just above the minimum requirements being married to a military man who was transferred every year we were together.

Getting a new job in a new place every year did nothing for my work history or my pay level. I had been divorced from him for quite a while when I remarried and fell into a big mess.

On day six of the marriage, my husband received a 21-day notice to vacate the house from seven months nonpayment. This was all kept from me prior to the marriage and I was duped.

For the next four years I had been the only person in the marriage that believed in paying my bills.

I had also acquired two middle school children court ordered to live with us until graduation that needed to be fed, housed, and clothed.

A yearlong custody and support battle took place but during that time I had charged up credit cards to feed the kids, pay the mortgage and car insurance.

I also did odd jobs ghost writing for various people, which supplemented my bank account while struggling to keep my head above water, as my new husband did not care about paying bills or even cleaning up the house.

I was already in a wheelchair by 2005 when we married, so everything was challenging. Suddenly I had to feed two more mouths on my Disability until the child support was established.

It was always with a promise that the credit cards would get paid back down to the initial $200 I owed when we married. That never happened and continues today.

I am unable to obtain the medical care I need including dental and vision. I have only two teeth left in my mouth. My eyeglasses are way beyond the limit of what is a healthy eye check regimen.

We had a house fire in which I was left alone to manage by myself. My husband took my car for himself because I kept it in good shape.

Both our cars were the same age but his was trashed. I paid cash for my car. He financed his. After he took my car and was leaving me stranded he continually barked at me to buy a car.

Finally I relented and bought a used mobility van, which was repossessed after two years because he was fired from two jobs.

The only income then was my Disability and the remainder of child support, about 14 months after his unemployment benefits ran out.

My husband refused to work any job unless it paid $25 an hour so he managed to work about six months out of three years.

We lost the house too during this time. I lived homeless again for eight months but fortunately had an old RV in which to stay out of the weather.

Recently my husband managed to find a good job but there is no way I can afford to get out of the hole I am in and he does not believe in paying back what he owes.

He totaled my car and then made me sign it over when he wanted a new car, which he got, for more each month than my mobility van cost.

Now the budget is upside down because we are paying rent, storage, twice the car insurance because of where we had to move for his work and to stop being homeless.

There is no way I can come up with the few hundred I need for eye glasses and the several thousand I need for long overdue dental care which now has to be dentures.

And because the jawbone is so deteriorated I may need surgery to be able to successfully wear dentures.

I am not allowed use of the car so many medical appointments are being cancelled, rescheduled or just dropped since my husband has to drive me but he works day shift.

I could really use help with these needs to make my life a bit more livable. I cannot change the pain or make it go away. I have just been coping with it as best as I can.

I have yet to be able to leave the apartment unless it is a doctor's appointment that he agrees I can have.

I frequently have to juggle prescriptions because someone has to make sure the bank account does not bounce.

I believe that my father left me a clean name and it is to his honor for me to keep it clean.

I am totally alone in this and have no clue how to swing the budget to include my needs.

Income Efforts

I collect Social Security Disability.

I have done some donation only singing in areas churches.

I sometimes get little ghostwriter positions for an article or two but nothing steady.

I had a position as client representative that reimbursed my mileage for several years until my husband would not allow me to go to the meetings any longer.

Specific Needs

I need a mobility van to get to appointments.

I am also in serious need for dental care as I only have two teeth remaining and two more are broken off at the gum line.

Lastly, I need my eyes evaluated, as it appears I am losing quite a bit of sight. I wear two pair of glasses just to be able to see the computer screen. Even zooming to 600% I cannot see the screen clearly.

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