Not every senior citizen in this country are filled with finances and good fortune. Many are widows or widowers who lost incomes when spouses died or when illness ravaged them with medical costs that were left uncovered and unprotected.
Meet me and my husband Jerry. We worked our entire lives, raising our three kids, working overtime, and saving for our golden years. We has a safety net of our own, an ESOP worth over 120,000 that we earned as rightful owners of UAL. We saved in a 401K, and invested our money to support our plan for retirement. All was going along nicely until 2001. That is when our lives were turned upside down.
We both happened to work for an airline. We both spent our time contributing to the success of that airline. Our children were growing and or gone, and we both were looking toward that day when we could retire and travel and know we had a comfortable living. However fate had a differing idea.
On July 15, 2001 our oldest daughter died as a victim of a homicide. She was murdered in a cold blooded stabbing while trying to protect her puppy from being abused by her incensed mate. She bled to death on the front porch of her home, from wounds to a ruptured aorta.
We inherited our grandchildren, grief stricken and terrified, to raise in the aftermath. Part of our savings was used to bury our child, to seek counseling for all of us after such trauma.
Then just a few weeks later our company would become a target of assasins in the air, as they forced aircraft into the World Trade Center and a sole filled field in southwestern Pennsylvania. That of course not only added to our grief but to a multiplicity of problems with jobs, stock values and the sort. Over time United would file bankruptcy, causing the ESOP to vanish before our very eyes, and the company stock to be worthless. Our pensions were dropped and cut and put in government control. Benefits and income dropped, and we paid out more and more.
In 2003 my mother in law was diagnosed with colin cancer and we again were encumbered by tragedy and loss. She died shortly after Mother's Day in 2004.
By November of 2004 I was feeling very ill myself, My legs were growing numb, my feet tingling and burning, legs swelling and pain in my abdomen. I retired from work because I no longer had the energy to lift bags or run marathons down the concourse. I saw doctor after doctor only to be told I was exhausted (ya think?) and needed rest and less stress.
In June 2007 I was finally appropriately diagnosed with stage 4 Ovarian Cancer, underwent immediate surgery, and then 6 months of chemo. Medical bills began accumulating. Then just before my last chemo in December 2007, my middle sister died suddenly following cosmetic surgery due to a blood clot. All of these issues syphoned yet more of our savings.
After my sisters death, my parents began to fail too. We had a house to sell, arrangements for their living needs to be met and so on. They ended up in a continuim of care nearby because I was too ill to help care for them.
Then tragedy once again struck. Sixty 68 year old Jerry Fredrick was seriously and critically injured in a bicycle fall on May 23, 2008. He suffered a catastrophic brain bleed, after the fall that caused permanent damage to the Cerebellum of his brain. The injury caused a total loss of balance and coordination including, standing, walking, and feeding himself, swallowing, vision and hearing. He has double vision, severe ataxia, and breathing difficulties as part of the bruising that occurred around the Pons and Medulla Oblongata of the Brain Stem as well as Cerebellar injury. This has changed his life completely.
He survived the massive injury even though doctors gave him only a 1 % chance of it He spent two weeks in a deep coma, and upon wakening he could barely move his limbs and had no coordination. And after his neurosurgery, to remove the blood clot that formed from the ruptured vein and a repair by coiling he began a long and arduous journey of trying to recover.
The fact that he is alive and recovering is beyond any expectation. Even so, the financial burdens of surgery and medical bills on our family were very heavy. 25 plus hospitalizations and months and months or rehabilitation took their toll on family finances. Little by little the costs of medicine, treatment, modifications ate away at our resources.
Bill collectors do not care, hospitals do not care, and doctors do not care. They want their payments regardless. Today we have nothing left, not a stick of savings, and nothing but worry about staying out of harms way with a roof over our heads. The thought of being 80 years old and living with a disabled spouse in a mini van is not what we planned for or desired for our lives. When are we in this country going to realize not all seniors are wealthy. Not all seniors have gotten to advance to daily golf games or tea's with the ladies. Not everyone gets to see the world as they planned. Instead they juggle bills, try to eat and cover medicines, and just stay afloat. Many seniors including us are in need and guess what America, when your older they simply do not care. Your value is insignificant, no matter the sacrifices you made.