It was early Wednesday morning on September 4th when my father in-law George called at 6am. I was getting prepared to attend my grandmothers wake and funeral. I would be a paul bearer.
" Hi Joe. Its George. I have a problem. She fell out of bed and can't move or talk."
"What does her face look like?"
"She can't move her right side."
"George, she's having a stroke. Hang up call 911. Right now. Call 911."
I beat the second ambulance to their house, about 15 minutes from our own. With that I found myself helping two of the EMT's carrying Irene out of the house on a burrito style back board.
My in-laws and wife immigrated from Hungary in 1980. With only three suitcases of clothing and my 3-year old wife in their little car, they traveled to Austria and never returned. Thee ended up in Maine and in 1996 bought a small two bay garage with one gasoline pump in a rural town, G&G Gas and Repair. American Dream and all, right?
As time went by and the cost of fuel went up, the cost of health insurance went up faster (with reducing benefits and increasing deductibles), a decision had to be made. Continue paying $2,000.00 per month ($1,000 each) for the health insurance (more than 60% of their annual income) or drop it altogether and seek alternatives methods for health. What would you have done?
At 59 and seemingly fairly healthy, no one knew.
The stroke had been very serious and her carotid artery is full occluded. They would not attempt surgery to unblock it as the risk of another stroke were too great.
Now at the hospital Irene has since been stabilized and transferred to a rehabilitation clinic. Although they have been US citizens for 30 years a language barrier still exists. Since she had no speech or movement on her whole right side rehab includes physical, occupational and speech therapies. Progress is being made but this is going to be a long slow recovery. We have no idea how much ability will return. We remain hopeful.
My wife has been doing most of the communication with the hospital and state health care agency (Maine Care). She has also taken responsibility of managing the business finances. She spends about 10-20 hours per week on this. We also hired a family lawyer to assist us with the Maine Care application.
I am now leaving my regular job at 3:30 pm and going to the garage for a couple-few of hours per night to pump gas so that George can work on the cars.
The response from the local citizens has been overwhelmingly positive and helpful. From people bringing food, (George can rebuild a transmission, but can't cook rice) to monetary donations and they even organized a benefit supper (October 12th). Several of the more trusted folks are working the pumps for lunch hour or filling in for a weekend shifts so that George can visit Irene at the hospital down in Portland.
With all of that help we are sure that the medical bills and probable modifications to their house will out weigh anything incoming.
We have started an on-line donation campaign at Give Forward.