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Grants To Help Martha With Multiple Disabilities Reduce Home And Vehicle Expenses

by Martha McNiel
(Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA)

Martha McNiel
My name is Martha McNiel. I'm a 38-year-old disabled mother of a feisty 16-year-old son. We live in a 1997 mobile home with my mother, who is 64 and also disabled.

Included in the family are two spunky cats, a boy and a girl that we just couldn't live without!

We've lived in Los Alamos, NM since 2011. Prior to that we lived in Colorado Springs, CO and Albuquerque/Rio Rancho, NM.

My youngest brother and his family live just up the street from us. My oldest brother and his family live a two-hour drive away in Rio Rancho, NM.

We also have a wonderful church family.

Disability Issues

I've been on permanent disability since April of 2011.

I was born eight weeks premature, and due to that, at the age of six weeks I was operated on to have the upper part of my left lung removed due to congenital emphysema. That caused numerous pneumonias as a child.

In 1993, at the age of 15, I was very depressed. I was admitted to the NM Children's Mental Hospital in Albuquerque. While I was in the hospital they discovered that I had Hashimoto's Thyroid and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I also had a lot of mental and emotional issues due to sexual, physical and mental abuse as a child.

In 1998 I became really sick. I was throwing up blood, I had lymph nodes so swollen that they would fit in my cupped palm, and my liver tests were highly abnormal. So I had a liver biopsy done in Seattle, WA. It came back with liver disease.

In 1999 I became pregnant with my son. Due to my health problems I was considered a high-risk pregnancy. I ended up have a C-section with him. After being home from the hospital for about ten hours I had to go back in because I had an infection in my uterus.

I was put on numerous IV antibiotics and my incision opened up. I was in the hospital for about a week when they finally let me go home. A nurse came to my house daily for six weeks to pack my incision so that it would heal properly.

I went back to work full-time in October of 2000. I continued to work full-time even on days that I could barely get out of bed because I was either sick or in so much pain I could barely move.

I had to in order to support my son and myself. Soon I was losing jobs left and right. My son's father left two weeks after he was born, and I have yet to receive any child support from him.

In February of 2009, we moved to Colorado Springs with my mother. I had just started a new job on Monday. Wednesday I had an endoscope. Friday morning I woke up and I could barely walk; however since this was still my first week on the new job, I didn't want to get fired for not going in.

By the end of the workday I was in so much pain that I couldn't move. I learned I had a septic hip, and by the time the doctor got me into surgery the sepsis had gone to my lungs.

When I woke up I couldn't remember who I was. It finally came back to me, but I also forgot that I had a son. And I had lost my job.

I was sent home a week later on IV antibiotics. I had a peripherally inserted central catheter, which remained in my arm for two months so that I could continue the IV antibiotics at home.

I filed for assistance from the state and was able to get help to carry me through to when I was finally able to start a new job in July of 2009.

When the sepsis went to my lungs, my body formed nodules around the infection to try and keep it from going any further into my body.

They were keeping an eye on those to make sure that they weren't growing when they found a mass on my thymus gland, and it was growing. They told me that it would have to be removed.

In January of 2010 I had a sternotomy to open my entire chest to remove the mass that had started out the size of a quarter when they first saw it, to the size of a dessert plate in just six months. The good news… it was non-cancerous!

My body did not recover after this surgery. I was sick all the time and my rheumatoid arthritis was out of control. I started my disability claim in fall of 2010.

I was not able to work, so I decided to do online schooling. This helped me pay for living expenses for my son and I while I continued to fight for my disability.

In April of 2011 I was finally granted full and permanent Disability after going to a judge with a lawyer.

Since then I have been on numerous medications for my rheumatoid arthritis including, but not limited to, IV biologics (Chemo Drugs).

In fall of 2013, I had to have my gallbladder removed.

In fall of 2015 I was put on full time oxygen because I had gained so much weight from not being able to exercise because of the amount of pain I was in. I was also diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Cancer at that time.

In December of 2015 they removed my thyroid, the cancerous nodules, and several lymph nodes in the area.

With the stress of it all and my hormones being out of control, I went into a very depressed state. In January 2016 I took a handful of my pain medication and other medication to end my life.

I put myself into an inpatient mental facility for a few days. They were able to help me understand that my emotions were so far off because of the hormone levels not being right in my body.

I am still disabled, with rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, thyroid cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, adrenal insufficiency, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, Asthma and Migraines.

I also have severe sleep apnea, and am on continuous positive airway pressure with additional oxygen at night. I am currently on 17 different medications for all of these disorders.

Financial Hardship

To start with, I make $1,153 monthly on Disability. I also receive $576 for my son. I do not qualify for food stamps, but my son does receive Medicaid through the state. My bills per month are as follows:

1. Rent -- $341.81 per month
2. Phone -- $120 per month
3. Cable -- $32 per month
4. Internet -- $52.51 per month
5. Electricity/Gas/Waste -- $171.33 (current bill)
6. Car and Renters Insurance -- $60.86 per month (which is about to go up because my son is starting to drive!)
7. Health Premiums -- 121.20 per month

Total bills = $899.71 for current month

Total left = $829.29

This remainder is what I have left to pay medical bills, prescription costs, co-pays on doctors' visits, medical equipment and supplies for the oxygen and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP Machine).

It also buys groceries for me and my 16-year-old son (who eats like food is going out of style!!), cat food and veterinary bills, toiletries and clothes.

Gas for the truck is sometimes more than usual because I have to go to Albuquerque to see my rheumatologist and receive my infusions, get repairs on my vehicle, and do repairs to my mobile home.

My vehicle is a 2002 GMC Envoy. It gets about 15 miles per gallon in the city and 21 on the highway. With gas prices this high, I can't afford to drive very far, but I have to go to Albuquerque at least every three months. Right now the anti-lock brake system is not working and it needs new motor mounts.

I also have the expense of the three-month oil change, which runs the lowest about $40 each time.

My mobile home is a 1997 Sprint, three bedrooms, two baths. The shower in the one bathroom is cracked and leaks, so we can't use it. The shower/bath in the other bathroom is starting to sag and crack. It leans to one side, which makes it hard to shower when I am in pain.

The roof leaks. We have tried patching it, but it really needs a new roof. We need gutters because the water is running off the roof and rotting the wood on the side of the mobile home.

The windows are old and starting to crack and fall apart. And in the summer time we have to use window air conditioners to cool the home off because it doesn't have a swamp cooler or any type of cooling system. This makes the cost of electricity go way up.

Income Efforts

We have tried selling a lot of our stuff to get extra money, for example our freezer.

Our church helped us out in the beginning, but can no longer do it.

The state says I make too much money for any kind of assistance through them except for my son's medical.

I can't get a normal job because my immune system is so low that I catch every little bug that is going around.

I am a year away from getting my bachelor's degree in phycology, but I am currently trying to get my student loans from before erased, so I can't try to finish my degree.

Specific Needs

Here's what I need:

- A different vehicle with better gas mileage or money to repair my vehicle
- Renovations on my home.
- Help in paying medical bills I have incurred from not having the money to pay the co-payments for exams and tests.
- Help paying current medical expenses and equipment.

I want to be able to know that I don't have to worry about my house falling down around my family. I want to know that my vehicle isn't going to leave me stranded. I want to know that every time I get a phone call it's not going to be from a creditor harassing me about paying them.

I don't know what is going to happen in the future. It is hard living a life scared.

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Feb 01, 2017
Thank You!
by: Martha McNiel

Thank you ability-mission.org for helping me publish my story!

Jan 17, 2017
Now you can access the Workbook!
by: Don from Ability Mission

Hey Martha,

Congrats on getting your story published! In doing so, you've acquired valuable hands-on experience in responding to precise instructions, the very kind that you will encounter when applying for help of any kind.

You've now earned the right to access the Workbook, which shows you how to use your story as a springboard to getting the help you need.

Don Coggan

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