Readers to the Rescue: Help With Betty-Jo’s Post-Cancer Liver Treatments So She Doesn’t Have to Live in Her Car

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Fourth of July weekend no doubt seems a weird time to appeal to readers to help someone in distress. But adversity has no respect for calendars. If you are fortunate enough to be having a pleasant holiday weekend I hope you’ll be generous and go to Betty-Jo’s Go Fund Me page right now. Any amount, even $5 would be appreciated, but if you can give $25 or $50 or $250, even better.

Since I’ve come to the South and hired aides for my mother, I’ve seen more of the hardships that the working poor face, and they seem to be much worse than in New York, where social safety nets are better. So as much as the US needs fundamental reforms, in the meantime we have pressing cases in the here and now.

Despite her Southern-sounding name, Betty-Jo is from the northeast, of Blackfoot and French stock. Her past life includes working in her mother’s home cleaning business, driving a taxi in New York City and later in Birmingham, working at Dollar General and making deliveries for Dominos Pizza.

Betty-Jo was my deceased mother’s best aide, always cheerful and a hard worker. She’d come in most mornings to get my mother out of bed and take care of her during the day, even though my mother was wheelchair bound and it would take muscle to transfer her, while Betty-Jo has a rod her lower back and walks with a limp.1

Betty-Jo was proactive, anticipating my mother’s needs and taking it upon herself to perform additional tasks, like diagnose and sometimes even treat car issues (she and her deceased husband had a yard care business and three-bay car repair shop). She was also the only aide to press and sometimes succeed with getting my self-professed couch potato mother to perform her physical therapy exercises. Betty-Jo never missed a session, coming even when she had migraines (my mother would send her home early then) or when her back was bothering her.

I’ve continued to employ Betty-Jo, at even higher rates since she is task focused on my estate-related duties, while caretaking involves some idle time. Betty-Jo would try not to talk about her health and financial problems but they’ve become too pressing to ignore. She had brain cancer 11 years ago that had metastasized. She had an operation and then chemo and radiation therapy. Even though her treatment did get the cancer, the radiation therapy damaged her liver. She was also left with medical debt which she kept paying even after the statute of limitations has expired (Betty-Jo is very skilled about mechanical matters but is unsophisticated about the law).2 Low income people are already in a precarious position and debt puts them on a treadmill. They often wind up incurring new debt or get behind on expenses to meet other obligations.

Betty-Jo has had a run of bad luck. Her old car had failed but she was able to use unemployment money to buy a not terribly expensive used car. But she didn’t buy comprehensive coverage. The car was hit within two months of her buying it by drunks with no insurance, expired drivers’ licenses, and even expired car tags. She needed a car for her aide and taxi work and had to buy again when used car prices had jumped sharply due to Covid. Her purchase was a borderline lemon and has needed more repairs than it ought to.

Betty-Jo has also not been able to afford her liver shots on a consistent basis. That plus stress due to her partner of six years leaving her to go back to Atlanta3 (the emotional blow, the having to move, the obstacles to her getting a lease) crashed her white cell count. Her soon-to-be-ex found her passed out on the floor; she’d apparently been there for four hours. He took her to the hospital. The hospital tossed her out after one night, saying they would have kept her longer if she had health insurance.

Betty-Jo has been in terrible shape for three weeks, unable to keep down one of the medications and having intermittent migraines.4 Nevertheless, her white cell count is getting better and her energy level has improved, so she is on the mend. But the loss of income and the incoming medical bills have made her bad situation much worse. And the added stress isn’t helping her recovery.

Without my help, she would be living in her car at the end of July. But what I can give her isn’t enough to pay for her medical emergency, her treatment going forward, and get her head enough above water that she can put down a big enough deposit to rent a studio.

Please help. She’s become important to me. I hate seeing someone who has no malice and is industrious and conscientious wind up in such a desperate state due to how our medical system places profit over people. Go to GoFundMe. Your gift will make a difference.

One reader told a story from his childhood, when he went with his father to the beach. They saw newly-hatched turtles trying to get to the sea. The boy exclaimed, “Dad, they won’t make it. They will die.” His father said, “Not this one,” as he carried it to the water.

* * *

Update: It’s 5:30 AM and we already have donations coming in! Thanks SO MUCH!


1 Betty-Jo’s late-teens boyfriend ran over her because she hadn’t gotten back from an errand for him fast enough, snapping her spine just below her rib cage. She said there were tire marks on the dress she was wearing. She was paralyzed below her waist and told she would never walk again. Three years after the assault, she had the back surgery that enabled her to use her lower body again.

2 You might ask why she did not declare bankruptcy. That costs money and she came from a circle where no one does that, I suspect it never occurred to her. And she never would have been able to work for Dollar General had she done so, and that position did give her health insurance and a not-bad income before they fired a lot of staff during Covid.

3 Far more detail than you want to know, but short version is the pretext is to take care of his mother, but his mother and his relatives have made clear they are not happy about how he is treating Betty-Jo.

4 IM Doc says liver meds can do that. I’m getting the name of what she is taking.

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  1. sporble

    I don’t think I’ve ever been the first under the comments bar (at least that’s what my screen shows right now)… and I certainly hope I’m not the last today! I just made a donation – hope many more do, too.

  2. Louiedog14

    Happy Birthday America- where you need an eloquently written CV to be spared a miserable death under a highway overpass.

    Thoughts and Prayers (and cash) Betty-Jo, you are a valuable human being.

  3. griffen

    This sentence…”drunks with no insurance, expired licenses and even the tags…” there are special places for people who can do this and seriously injure another. That is incredibly malicious and evil, even if those doing so are southern redneck white trash. Doesn’t matter (for me) if they are or are not white.

    Making a donation.

    1. Dave in Austin

      The police are overwhelmed with the unregistered driver problem. If they arrest people they have to house them and deal with the usual collapsed family situations which Yves describes so eloquently. And that money comes out of the already overstretched local budget. The rich places have less of a problem because the poor can’t live there and the places the poor do frequent- the Dollar General world- are located in Poorland. So the rich are to some degree shielded from the unregistered drivers.

      The NC readers seem to assume that the car driver is from the disorganized White-trash world.

      What about the Black-trash world? Or the illegal world? The desperate Third World economic and demographic refugees that the open border has delivered to our doorstep. They usually don’t qualify for a license, often have never driven in their native land, can’t afford a car that can pass inspection and be registered, and can’t afford insurance- so they drive illegally because they know the police are overwhelmed and that they will not be arrested. They are often just allowed to drive away so they can bang into another Betty Jo. The rich want cheap labor. Cheap labor isn’t cheap.

      So as an experiment with a sample size of one, I’d suggest Yves ask Betty-Jo about car accident and report her findings to NC. Was the person who hit her White, Black, drunk/sober/stoned, English speaking? If not, what language? How old? Any ID at all? How did the police deal with it or was it the all-to-common hit and run? And in what part of the Birmingham? Yves knows the place well enough to guess the economic status of the neighborhood.

      Statistics can be rigorous and mathematics, subjective and based on our own experience, or a concocted series of individual stories fed to us as representative by the media. Betty Jo is a “subjective based on our experience”. So is the person who hit her. Not exactly the statistics we learned in grad school but valid nevertheless. So let’s hear more about the Betty Jo crash.

      Yves is getting an education and is a moral and aware person. She’s trying to deal with her new education and we get to watch- and maybe help a bit. I believe she’s wrong about there being better services in NYC; the Guatemalan Betty Jo’s are just driven into the outer boroughs or kept out-of-sight sleeping in the basement of one of those inexpensive NYC restaurants we all love to frequent. Out of sight, out of mind. One of the pleasures of the South is very little is out-of-sight if you take the side streets. And if you meet the eyes of one of the locals and nod instead of looking away they wave back.

      The closer upper-middle class people get to Betty Jo Land, the more they see the people as humans caught in tough situations, even if the situations are partly of their own making. And the more they are likely to ask the unspeakable question: “Where would I be today if I were born Betty Jo?”

      The summer job and before that the Depression, the foxhole and the GI Bill used to force social mixing. Now the well-off young grow up clueless. Life is Faulkner, not Fitzgerald or Hemingway.

      So tonight go to some fireworks in a small place filled with people you don’t know and just walk around. I’ve done the equivalent everywhere from the outback to the Tarn; much more enlightening than watching the show with two million people in Sydney or Paris.

      And if you keep your eyes open maybe you can help another Betty Jo.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        What I do know about the car accident is there were four people in the car, all drunk and maybe high too, so drunk that when they got out (I’m sure they would have driven away but both cars were too wrecked to do that) she says they were so drunk they didn’t know who had been driving. None had a valid license so I don’t think this was an excuse to cover for the actual driver.

        The other aides where I heard terrible stories were one who had a teen cousin who was killed by a stray bullet (I don’t even think fired in a crime, I think in a male posturing display) and anther had an eight year old nephew with no known health issued drop dead at a pool party. He hasn’t been exerting himself. Turned out he had a bad heart but no one had ascertained that.

        Betty-Jo’s soon to be ex has had 20 people die of Covid on both sides of his family. They tend to diabetes.

        There’s a short cut I take to the airport, through a bad neighborhood. A house had fallen down, porch had collapsed and then the roof. Took the city over two years to remove it. I got in a long discussion with a taxi driver about it. He said he had called it in to the city repeatedly. He said they said they weren’t doing anything because no one in the neighborhood had complained. You know that was untrue. Owners nearby must be expected to pay off the city officials under the table to get bad houses razed.

        After that, I drove out to take a picture after I heard that to post on it. By then the house was gone.

        1. Dave in Austin

          The Yves “falling down house” is like the stories I hear every day that make me want to scream in rage… and despair. The “city refusing to do its duty” is one of the key problems we don’t think about.

          Right now in the alley behind my condo (U of Texas student area, older one bedroom condos with parking have gone from $230,000 to 300,000 in two years so not poor) the 7-story University Coop housing building has filled the alley with “student move out” furniture that narrows to alley to 6 feet so the garbage trucks must drive over the stuff. Too cheap to pay for the haul-away. A neighbor got a flat tire from the junk.

          Two calls to the city 311 number (one by me) have not gotten a solution. A “Give me the report number please” to 311 gets a “We don’t have report numbers”. Calls to 911 get the same “no report” result, which is why our crime rate for minor crime has “improved”- no reports. One person overhearing my conversation with the other 311 caller simply said “A bit of gas and a match”. I said “Not a good idea”- but I understood why he said it. This is like the falling-down house Yves mentioned.

          But I disagree with her on one point; I don’t think it took a bribe to get the house demolished. More likely it was a call from “someone” who asked “Can you move this house up the list?”

          There is limited money for tearing down, some houses are fire dangers (row houses), crack houses or have kids playing in them. It is ” Which one do we do this week?” and a call from the local parish priest or the aunt of someone inside the department is the usual thing that works. So don’t call 311, find the department that handles it, call after lunch, and calmly explian why “I think this one is a problem”. And make sure to be friendly and get the person’s number and first name “If I need to call back”. This works surprisingly often.

          I’ve found here in Austin that I occasionally have to drop the A-Bomb, a certified letter to my City Council member and a cc to the Mayor with printed pictures pointing out a potentially lethal issue with a nice “Now you’re on notice; you don’t want your name in the paper if this blows up, so please fix it”; and a chatty final note “I don’t take credit or talk about things out of school”. It works wonders. I’ve done it twice in my 30 years in Austin.

          To quote from Tip O Neill, who took John Kennedy’s house seat when JFK went to the Senate in 1952 and who later became the Speaker of the House: “All politics is local”.

  4. Ancient1

    I have made a donation. I hope that what little I was able to give helps. I also hope that life improves for this lady. I come from the same background and know the tribulations. Blessings to you both.

  5. Lexx

    $6500 isn’t enough… let’s make it $10k+, folks. Some peace of mind can be purchased with enough money.

    1. dougie

      A most excellent idea, and I commend you for it! I think the old quote goes “There, but for the grace of the deity of your choice, should such deities even exist to begin with, go I.

    2. Lexx

      I was actually thinking $30k, maybe $40k… liver shots, apartment deposit plus rent for one year, a more reliable used car… but ‘Susan Webber’ started out with the right-sized carrot; it was doable. Fortunate for Betty-Jo,’Susan’ also happens to know a bit about money management and how to stretch a buck.

  6. Irrational

    Donated. Bad luck doesn’t even begin to describe it, but I hope Yves’ fundraiser will help things turn around.

  7. Suzan

    I am homeless and desperately need help in order to buy some food every day and pay for somewhere to stay out of the elements at night at least. My CashApp is $NeedsHelp999 and it doesn’t charge for the service. I’m for Zelle.

    Thanks so much for any help!!!

  8. caucus99percenter

    I’m in!

    Friend in Mississippi whom, alas, I only see at college reunions, was laid up for six months and narrowly escaped becoming an invalid for life, due to an uninsured drunk driver.

  9. CallMeTeach (retired)

    We often wonder what we can do to make the world a better place. Here’s our chance. Every little bit will help. Donate if you can, what you can. I did.

  10. Tom Stone

    Having been hit head on by a drunk illegal alien driving a stolen and unregistered car I can relate.
    Best wishes to Betty-Jo, keep putting one foot in front of the other.

  11. Mark Stoltz

    Just donated, but can’t help wondering how many other Betty-Jo’s are out in the USA who aren’t lucky enough to have an Yves in their life?

  12. ChiGal

    thanks for the opportunity to make a bit of a difference, Yves.

    And Betty-Jo, sending $ but also my deepest respect and best wishes. This country (the world, really) needs more people like you. And to do better by them.

  13. Daniel Raphael

    Done. It is an ongoing commentary on the joys of capitalism that we need something like GoFundMe. It would help, of course, if we had M4All, something for which I gather signatures…but what we really need is a society in which we systematically take care of each other.

  14. Lois

    Done! So sad that in this “neoliberal hellscape” as my husband and I call it that this is necessary, but happy to help.

  15. juno mas

    So let’s celebrate the birth of our nation with a nice donation. (It is on the way via Paypal). Oh, Betty-Jo, I hope you get mo’.

  16. tegnost

    Thank you Betty Jo, sadly in america there are many people in your circumstance. I’ve admired you from afar as you cared for yves mom. I’ve made a small donation in honor of the saying “many hands makes light work”

  17. RA

    In line with Lexx suggestion donations just passed $10K.

    Good to be part of something that might help. Better than throwing money into the void of political fund raising.

  18. playon

    I’m glad to help her out… it’s terrible that so many Americans are in this kind of situation. This country…

  19. John Massie

    This I’d the second situation for me in two days. I just sent a modest contribution to Betty Jo and I pray for some healing and stability in her life.
    Yesterday, I was approached by a youngish guy while gassing up at a rural Virginia gas station. He wanted to use my phone which I agreed to. He asked for a ride to the a town 20 miles away in my direction before using the phone. I agreed.
    On the drive I heard the story as he made numerous calls to find shelter for the night. No phone, no money, no car, no where to go, two days out of prison and rejected by everyone he called. Probably by most standards an “unworthy victim”. I dropped him off in the town on a street where he pretended he knew someone. Leaving, I passed the Salvation Army where I figured he was heading.
    America, Virginia, are rich societies. What’s wrong with you? Why do you let these situations happen?

    I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.
    Thomas Jefferson

    1. Joe Renter

      A young black man that looked like he was not having economic prosperity asked me at Union station in LA last week to use my cell. Earlier that day I left it on the airplane and had to deal with trying to get it back, I succeed but was somewhat traumatized from it.
      I regret not letting him use it. I should have kicked down at least some cash to him.
      Trust your heart, it will place you where growth and compassion are accelerated.

  20. Grumpy Meezer

    Yves, you’re a saint for doing this. In a civilized country you wouldn’t have to. Best to Betty Jo

  21. Rainlover

    Betty Jo, my very best wishes to you that your life may continue to improve. Thank you, Yves, for this opportunity to contribute.

  22. ozz

    Betty Jo,. Our thoughts here are with you! It is a good thing we can contribute my wife has a liver issues as well.

  23. PlutoniumKun

    I’m beyond disgusted that someone should be denied basic medications in a rich country. Sent a little, wish I could send more right now.

  24. Laughingsong

    Done…. Not as much as I would have been able to, as Himself just lost his job last week…. But what we could do at this time….

  25. Steven A

    Just donated with pleasure. My best wishes to Betty-Jo. If another round donations is needed, I am here.

  26. Tinky

    Happy to help, and I hope that Betty-Jo will enjoy some well-deserved luck in the near future.

  27. WhoaMolly

    “I’m beyond disgusted that someone should be denied basic medications in a rich country. Sent a little, wish I could send more right now.” — PlutoniumKun


  28. Anon

    Someone wrote in comments recently this life is about suffering and redemption. I’m so sorry for Betty-Jo and just made a small donation. What a crappy, soulless society we are.

  29. Elizabeth

    Happy to make a donation. Betty Jo no one should have to endure such a horrible situation as you do. Unfortunately, there are way too many who do. We live in a cruel and barbaric country.My best wishes to you, and thank you Yves for doing this.

  30. Jeremy Grimm

    I have had a good month. I hope by sharing my luck, it might grow and continue, or at least pass to someone who needs it more than I do.

    One thing greatly troubles me about this post. By everything Yves told, Betty Jo is most deserving of all the help and good luck any of us can pass to her. But suppose she were less deserving, a person of less fortitude and less worthy of acclaim? Would she be thereby more deserving of her many travails and less deserving of our help? I find it much easier to share with someone who so plainly deserves much much better than she has received … but would she really be less deserving of our help if she were a despicable villain? Does even our worst enemy deserve the fate the u.s. system of Neoliberalism — without such help as we can give — deemed to be Betty Jo’s fate?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I know, it is arbitrary who suffers and then who gets help. And I don’t like having to make the “deserving poor” pitch but people are more sympathetic towards someone who has worked hard and tried to to the right thing and their life is still a mess through no fault of their own. I held back on the full litany of bad things that happened to Betty-Jo. Her migraines come from repeated head trauma growing up. She was beaten by family members, which is why she wound up with a boyfriend that would abuse her. The soon to be ex was a big improvement. They get on well.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I responded to the deserving poor pitch. What troubles me is that such pitch is necessary to elicit sympathy, including mine.

  31. Seagull

    Funny, I get nakedcapitalism in my inbox, but I haven’t visited the site for awhile – a long while. But something drew me here today. Thank you for creating this opportunity to help Betty-Jo. I added a little bit more to the pile. Like others commenting and donating, I wish her all the best.

  32. flora

    Depending on her age and when her husband died and if he had enough SS credits over his working life, she may qualify to claim SS benefits on her deceased husband’s SS record. It won’t help immediately, the bureaucracy is slow, but if she qualifies then it will help going forward. Any one knowledgeable about dealing with the system in your area who might bro bono some checking? A local senior citizens agency? (even if she isn’t a senior yet)
    Any lawyer in the area who might pro bono stopping the collections of now passed statute of limitations debt?
    Fleecing the poor is an industry in this country.

    1. aletheia33

      good suggestions.

      just calling the national number for SSA can be helpful in sorting spousal eligibility.

      i searched online “low income housing birmingham”, and there is some there. no idea how long waiting lists are. you probably have already looked into this. Neighborhood Housing Services there has housing counselors.

      food stamps assistance (now Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, under the USDA) is via the county Food Assistance Office. you can apply online.

      Legal Services of Alabama (free), which has an office in Birmingham, can help with debt problems. (the Legal Aid Society is court-appointed lawyers only.)

      if you are lucky enough to find a committed social worker or counselor employed anywhere in the social services system who really knows the local terrain and has connections/contacts in the system, that person can be a big help.

      apologies if this is too much unnecessary detail. based on my own experiences in rural new england, probably a far cry from alabama. however, when poor there is so much to learn about the systems that it is a burden in itself when one has little strength left.

      an astonishing amount of public assistance funds never get spent, simply because people do not learn of it, or because of the high tax on time and effort to complete applications. as lambert is always saying, you’ve got to “pay” something, people have to have jobs gatekeeping, and god forbid anyone gets hold of any $$ who does not “deserve” it.

  33. Boris

    Donation made. Compliments, Yves, for taking action like this!
    (So nice to see that the taget was overshot by so much and so fast.)
    Best wishes to Betty-Jo.

  34. kate

    Thank you, Yves and Betty-Jo, for offering us this opportunity. It takes courage and generosity of spirit to reach out. It pains me how many of us close ourselves off in time of need. Best wishes, Betty-Jo.

  35. Joe Renter

    I did a little bit just now. Over 18 k Awesome!
    I know a little about bad luck and have slept in a car and in a storage unit (got busted).
    I did 5 months on a bike trip with a trailer in the SW last year and saw a lot of hard time folk.
    Now I am in Las Vegas taking care of my 90 year old Mother.
    I Read in the local paper today that last year 245 people died of heat exposure in the county last year. I am guessing most were homeless.
    40 billion for a proxy war but we can’t take care of our own.
    Be kind, practice goodwill. Peace

    1. Norm de plume

      Hey Joe

      Your story reminded me of Nomadland, which I saw recently. It was affecting even though it rigorously avoided obvious pulling of heart strings. I was struck while watching it by how convincingly natural the mostly unknown-to-me cast were; then realised during the credits that many were playing themselves.

      It won Oscars and other awards aplenty, deservedly so. But will it make any difference, at all?

      Have asked the missus (who does Paypal) to send something to Betty Jo. Best to her and thanks to Yves.

  36. tongorad

    My 87-year old mother recently had an extended hospital and nursing home stay, and is thankfully back home for now. I am very grateful for the nurse and aide care she received. Donated in appreciation & thanks.

  37. Ander

    Read the background and clicked GoFundMe to chip in a bit myself, felt absolutely heart-warmed to see that the generous donations of the NC commentariat among others have resulted in nearly $20k for Betty-Jo!

    Glad there is no shortage of kind folks with the means to help

  38. John Zelnicker

    Due to circumstances I wish hadn’t happened, I have a bit of extra money right now.

    I can’t think of a better place to put some of it than Betty-Jo’s needs.

    According to the web site, my donation will bring the total to $19,000.

    Please, keep it up NC’ers.

  39. rivegauche

    May Betty Jo find peace and comfort for all her days. Donated just now. Survived my own horrors that pale in comparison.

  40. griffen

    The reports of the donations in total going higher warms this dark soul of mine. Have a great morning.

  41. ChrisRUEcon

    Good lookin’ out, Yves … #PitchedIn

    All the best to Betty-Jo! Love the turtle story ♥

  42. CoryP

    Even if there’s so much pain and suffering in the world it’s nice to band together and feel the solidarity in trying to get Betty-Jo back on her feet. Godspeed.

  43. jhg

    Good Day Yves,

    I hope your aide Bobby-Jo pulls through. She sounds like a good person and no one should ever have to sleep in their car in this country. We here in Canada sometimes take for granted our government health care programs. I can’t imagine living under the system you have in the United States. I have made a small donation for Bobby-Jo. Take care.

  44. David

    Yves, Thank you for bringing this to my (our) attention. I gave. Always ask, right?

    Best wishes to Betty Jo!

  45. Bob White

    Yves, is there an alternative way to donate?
    (without using GoFundMe)
    Maybe mail a check? (I know, really old school)
    All the best…

Comments are closed.