My girlfriend Melissa developed asthma while in the military when she was in her 20s. She was able to lead a relatively normal life until she moved out west about 10 years ago. When she lived in Boise Idaho, her lung problems went from manageable to moderate persistent. There, she was able to control the disease with medications and by limiting exposure to things that triggered exacerbations.
I met her in September of 2014. Even though we both lived out west we soon discovered we were both from northern Ohio and even had a mutual friend. We spent the next 6 months talking for hours every day and visiting each other many times. Since she had problems with her asthma in Boise, we decided to have her relocate to the Reno Nevada area in the spring of 2015.
The job market was better in Reno and we hoped her symptoms would improve. She started working shortly after she arrived. Within just a couple months her lungs took a big turn for the worse. She worked about 4 months up at Lake Tahoe before she was forced to quit.
She started getting short of breath at work and had a couple trips to the emergency room. In August of 2015 she was hospitalized for asthma and diabetic ketoacidosis. We were able to get her diabetes back under control but her lungs were a different story. She was hospitalized twice more in early 2016 for asthma problems and started daily steroids to help her lungs function.
We have tried to get her off the steroids but haven't had much luck. She was able to go down from 40mg to 30mg late last summer but the effects were already playing a big roll in her life. In late fall of last year in was evident the myopathy from the steroids was becoming too much for her to handle and she was prescribed a wheelchair. She's only able to walk a very short distance before the pain and shortness of breath require her to sit down. As time went on she was having more trouble breathing and started supplemental oxygen last December.
Her doctors started recommending moving when they began to figure out her health was so negatively impacted by living in Reno. The elevation, lack of humidity, forest fires, and preponderance of smokers all cause her significant problems and force her to spend nearly all her time at home. The VA has her on their maximum allowable treatment and she is still declining in her health. Moving is our only hope left to help her condition improve.
We were able to spend two nights in California last fall. Melissa remembered feeling that her breathing was easier on a previous trip to Seattle several years before, so we decided to try it out. Even at 3200 ft elevation she felt somewhat better (Reno is about 4500 and Boise is 2730). After the trip we started researching climates, elevations, humidity, and other factors across the country. We spent many hours talking and comparing different places before the answer was clear. We needed to move back to Ohio. We both have friends and family for support there too.
Melissa just returned in mid August from a trip to Ohio. She was actually able to stand and talk for about 15 minutes, take her oxygen off for a bit without having problems, and even managed to walk up and down stairs twice. Her wheelchair was used minimally on the trip and she started feeling better, even in a short amount of time. It was truly a sign that with the right environment she would improve rather than have further declines like she's had in Reno.
We have found a way to help her improve and regain her quality of life, but this is where the bigger problems begin. Reno is a very expensive city and costs are going up quickly. Our rent, storage, and utilities have all gone up about 15% this year alone. I'm working all I can, up to 60 to 65 hours a week, and I can't work more than that. Melissa needs me to help her with many of life's daily tasks. She's no longer driving, so my 1 to 2 days off a week are spent doing errands like grocery shopping and paying bills. As a veteran, she qualifies for a VA home loan. She's already started the process, but the VA requires $1900 dollars in her savings to approve the loan. We are trying desperately to save but it's incredibly difficult on a limited income. The move itself is also quite pricey since I'm the only one able to pack the moving truck. We've estimated costs to go from Nevada to Ohio to be around $7650, not including appliances needed in the new house (this is for a self move, full service would put our costs at over 10,000). In addition to the health improvements from moving, our cost of living should go down at least 25%. We could use that money to pay for Melissa's rehab since the VA doesn't provide that here.
We are planning on selling off a good portion of our possessions, both to lighten our load and to raise funds. I'm hoping we can raise a decent amount from selling, but that's just not guaranteed. The first $1900 has to be raised before we can even put in a bid on a house. The rest of the money needs to be available about a month and a half after the house bid to facilitate the move itself. Ideally we would like to complete the move by Christmas. Winter is a much easier season for Melissa's health and we would love to spend the holidays with our families.
It's actually quite embarrassing to us to ask for help, but this is the situation we are in. We take pride in being able to do things on our own. Ideally we would use savings to complete the move, but unfortunately I was out of work for 6 months in late 2015 to early 2016 due to the elimination of my job position. We simply don't have the funds to do this alone. We are currently looking into grants and other forms of help to make this possible. As we learn more I'll update the costs and funds needed.
Please, if you are able, consider helping us out. It's heartbreaking to me to see her struggle daily like she does. With a little help, we can get her back on the track to getting well and living a full life again. Thank you all for taking the time to read this. God bless you all.
- Andrew Fitzenrider
- Judy Tehoke
- Joe Posa
- Bob Migliorino
- Holly Bade
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