Spine injury leads to potential eviction

Hello, friends.  I'm Nancy McLaughlin, and here's how this crisis came about...

A few years ago, I started having weird pains in my left leg. I took aspirin, ibuprofen, etc. and hoped it would go away, but it just kept getting worse.  I worked for as long as I could while the wonderful people at La Clinica de La Raza tried everything to help me out, but eventually the pain became unbearable and my gait became unsteady.

Then in early 2012 my car was stolen, so I began walking to the school where I work, which exacerbated the pain considerably.  The doctors determined that a swollen muscle was banging against an inflamed nerve, causing a variety of pain signals from my left hip all the way down to my toes.  At any given moment it felt as though my thigh was on fire...and I mean, really on fire, or that somebody was stabbing me in the knee, or that the flesh was being torn from my foot.  I could even see the muscles up and down my leg, twisting and spasming under the skin.

One morning I fell down getting out of the shower, knocked myself cold, and blackened both eyes.  Still, I donned the Jackie Onassis glasses and tried to keep walking to school, until the day that I almost fell down again on the way there.  At that point it was clear that I had to stop working until the doctors could find some way to fix me up.  (I recommended amputation, but they didn't go for it.)

An MRI showed that I had ruptured two disks in my lower spine.  I was out of work for almost a year, taking muscle relaxants, alternating ice packs and hot water bottles, lying in bed so that my spine would heal, and doing aggressive stretches to strengthen and relax muscles I'd never been aware of before.

I quickly went through what little savings I had, and eventually fell behind on my rent payments.  Found out, too, that teachers in Oakland don't pay into state disability, and that CalSTRS, our retirement fund, has nothing equivalent to a short-term disability program.

My amazing parents helped me out to the extent that they could, but the bills still piled up.  After nearly a year stuck at home, the horrific, 24/7, agonizing pain finally subsided, and I was finally able to return to work.  However, I was still months behind in the rent.  My landlord and I came to an agreement that I would make supplemental payments in the middle of each month until I had paid the full amount that I owed him.

Then, this past February, he sold the building to a huge San Francisco investment firm.  They immediately demanded every dime of my past-due rent, which I did not have.  Ultimately they served me with eviction papers.

So now here I am, hoping to scrape together as much of the back rent as I can, along with money to pay my attorney.  We go to court on May 2.

My back is almost totally healed, and now I'm only missing work for lawyer days and home repair days.  (New landlords hope to more than double the rent, by means of "tenant overturn" and "capital improvements," so Santa's elves have been over here for two months hammering, drilling, rewiring, painting, and scaring the kitty cats.  They're actually very good workers, and nice fellas, but wow, the noise and mess!)

Thank you for reading.  Will post more later, but right now I must go move more stuff around to accommodate the crew.  It's a very hectic and terrifying time around here.


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Nancy McLaughlin 
Oakland, CA
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