The following story (original here) comes to us from a trusted reader. Gerard writes:
The current problem is the last in a series of things that happened over the last five or six years.
At the end of June, my wife died after a long illness that began with Stage III Lymphoma. The lymphoma treatment was followed by a long period of semi-paralysis and pain.
We lived in an apartment building that was purchased by new owners as part of an extensive real estate redevelopment. The new owners/managers decided to get rid of most of their 50 or so existing tenants in order to build their own “community”.
The owners were willing to provide some compensation, and they had a perfect right to do what they wanted with their own property. But they had been told in writing that this kind of move could have a very bad effect on someone who was elderly and ill. She had been receiving rehabilitation at home, and was gradually getting better. I fought off any kind of move despite increasing pressure to do so, but finally it became the only choice.
Two days after the semi-forced move, my wife was in the hospital, unable to breathe. She had two collapsed lungs and three heart attacks while in the emergency room.
She spent a month in the cardiac ward followed by another month in two skilled nursing hospitals. She was again making slow gains when her Medicare time ran out. The only followup care she could get was Home Hospice. Those people helped me take care of her, but their mission does not allow them to provide “aggressive medical care.”
The numbers are kind of bogus, like most of today’s medical bills, but I would guess that Medicare spent about $250,000 in phony money keeping her alive. Then they let her die.
Over her last six months, I was caught between trying to get any kind of effective medical care, and providing personal care and support. I have no living family, and her family is scattered across the country. She was no longer getting physical rehabilitation. She gradually lost strength and died.
A few weeks ago – about a month or so after her death – I took the family vehicle, a 1975 VW Bug, to the repair shop that had worked on the car for a dozen years. The problems involved a fuel leak, a tune-up, and some minor problems with the wiring in the steering wheel. The car was mostly my wife’s “pet.” After her death it became very important to me, as a reminder of her.
The repairs were completed and I took the car for a test drive. I stopped for an hour at a bookstore and then got back into the car and started for home. Within a few blocks the engine caught fire and everything in the engine compartment was destroyed.
The shop-owner was willing to accept responsibility until his insurance company decided that one hose had been replaced, and a fire due to a second hose did not count. They declined to pay for repairs. I wrote a detailed letter to the insurance company representative, explaining that this was all one incident. They still chose to deny the claim. There seems to be no reason why they should do this other than the fact that they can get away with it.
The loss of my vehicle is a very difficult problem coming at the end of a long string of problems.
I’d like to get back on my feet and either get the VW rebuilt or get a workable car. I’m in my early 70s. I’m ready to get back to work. I just doesn’t have much to work with.
I was not a member of Facebook or other “social media” sites. I do not have 5,000 Internet friends. I hope that some people who are involved in social media will pass the word to some of their friends.
So if you want to help Gerard on the workable car project, here’s the link.
What I see in this story is a series of cascading disasters that could strike any of us; indeed, disasters that the systems and institutions in which we are enmeshed seem designed to create, filled as they are with tricks and traps. The perps:
1) The new real estate company that kicked Gerard and his wife out of their home. (I wonder if they were funded by Private Equity?)
3) the Home Hospice system;
4) the auto repair shop;
5) the insurance company (shocker, I know).
Getting old isn’t for weaklings, is it? Death and suffering come to us all, but should not come accompanied with blows and kicks from people and institutions that should help. One day we can hope that Private Equity won’t be wrecking lives; that the rent-seekers infesting Medicare and the health care system will be eradicated; that insurance companies won’t profit by denying payment just “because they can.”
Until that day, we can do this one small thing and help Gerard with his car.