Help Bri become AJ's home care aide!

Hello, friends new and old! As most of you are aware, AJ developed a rare condition called PRES — posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome — back in May, which led to bilateral strokes. They were intubated and sedated in the ICU for several days while a brain bleed slowed down. They were sent to rehab too early, just a week after nearly dying, and only lasted a few days before landing back in the ER and being readmitted to stabilize their blood pressure. In total, AJ spent five weeks at Tacoma General. They were then transferred to inpatient rehab at Good Samaritan hospital, where they stayed for another five weeks and learned how feed and dress themself, use a wheelchair, and start walking again with assistance.

AJ has been home since the first week of August. I lived at the hospital with them the entire time they were at TG, minus a few days that I had a stomach bug of some sort. My small business has been on hold while I have been a caregiver, single-handedly moved us into a new apartment which is smaller and more expensive but is also more accessible, and have taken on the entirety of the chores which we shared before the strokes. Our only income has been AJ's short term disability checks, which don't even cover our new rent.

At first, AJ's caseworker at DSHS made a typo which led us to believe they were only approved to receive 14 hours of care per month. It seemed like a lot of hoops to jump through to become a paid caregiver, only to be paid for 14 hours per month. We finally learned, just within the past few months, that AJ is actually approved for 114 hours of care per month.

So I started looking into how I could start getting paid for some of the caregiving I've been providing every day for months. (Pay is not retroactive, but will help us so much moving forward.) I hit another wall when I called SEIU 775 and was told that the benefits of free training along with paid training hours only applies if you take their own in-person course. Because of my own disabilities preventing me from being able to attend early morning classes five days a week for two weeks straight plus needing to be at home for AJ, I need to take a class which is offered online, with just two days of in-person skill labs. It took a lot of digging for me to learn that this was even possible.

The home care aide (HCA) certification course I'll be taking is offered through Cornerstone Healthcare Training Company. The cost is $553 for training, plus $222 for the testing and exam fees. If I were getting paid for the training hours, I'd make $1,125. So the total goal for this fundraiser is those three amounts added together, plus $100 to account for fees.

Meeting the above goal of $2,000 will take care of my training, licensing and exam fees, and will also cover our living expenses until I start getting paychecks, which can take up to a month after the 5 hour orientation is completed. This will enable me to focus on my training and caregiving duties, without constantly stressing about how we are going to buy groceries or make up the gap in rent.

I've been waiting three weeks, since submitting my background check application, to start this fundraiser and be on my way to signing up for my courses. I finally heard back this morning, and my contracting appointment is December 5th, so here we are.

We need one last rally, one big ol' push, and then we'll finally have some stability and breathing room. Once I've finished my classes and exam, I will be focusing any free time I have on getting my business back up and running again in our tiny new space. This has been an incredibly overwhelming task, but I believe that it will be possible — and that I will actually have the energy to joyfully create — once my currently superhumanly high levels of stress and resulting depression have eased.

AJ and I know how blessed we are to have been surrounded by so much love and received so much assistance since their strokes just over six months ago. We owe our current safety and warmth to each of you who has helped in any way. We truly hate having to ask again, but there is simply no other way for us to find stability right now.

Please help us out from between this rock and hard place in any way you are able. Even a $5 donation helps!

If you'd like to send a donation via a fee-free method, I can accept funds via PayPal friends and family, Zelle or Facebook Messenger. Gift cards for Lyft or Amazon are also incredibly helpful. All of the above can be sent to [email redacted]. Any donations of funds from any source (other than gift cards, which help SO much but can't be used to pay course fees or bills) will be included on this page; I will manually add other contributions daily so you can all see exactly where we are in relation to our goal every step of the way.

Please note that I do not use or plan to sign up for any additional online  payment methods not mentioned above.

Cards of encouragement for AJ are absolutely welcome and cherished. AJ was so heartened by the many wonderful cards they received in rehab, but they have received just one card since coming home. In addition to cards for AJ, I can also accept checks made out to Bri Crofton at the address below. (Please don't send surprise large packages, as I don't get to the post office often and it can be difficult to schlep packages around while running errands.)

AJ Spellman & Bri Crofton
PO Box 7690
Tacoma, WA 98417

Please know that we are also incredibly grateful for prayers, Reiki, candles, signal boosts of this fundraiser and Facebook posts about it, as well as general good mojo. We appreciate your love and well wishes so much, and we truly believe that they help!

Much love and bright blessings to you all, friends.

Important update 12/7:

There are only three HCA training programs in Washington which are DSHS-approved and mostly online, which is why it's so difficult to find them among the dozens of classes offered in person. I did some more digging and finally found the newest one, Washington Care Academy.

Not only does WCA offer the two day in-person skills lab right in Tacoma, but the course is over $200 less expensive than the one I'd planned to take from Cornerstone. Tonight, I registered for the class. I'll begin the orientation this weekend.

Unfortunately, I found out at Thursday's contracting appointment and mini orientation that it could take up to two weeks longer to start receiving a paycheck than we'd initially expected. AJ's long term disability checks, our only reliable income in the meantime, are $781 per month. Our rent alone is $950. Because of these factors, I'm going to keep the total goal the same even though I found a less expensive course. We'll definitely need more groceries before my pay starts coming in.

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Bri Crofton 
Tacoma, WA
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