I’m Jim Wheelock. I’m a 65 year-old artist, writer, and current wheelchair commander.
On September 29th, 2017 I tripped on a car barrier in a parking garage in Glendale, California, and fell, impacting hard on the concrete. I didn’t see my apartment or any other part of my real life for seven months.
Instead, I was trapped in a vicious cycle between hospital stays and far too much time in a hellish rest home in North Hollywood, well-described in a review as “a place people go to die”. I nearly did, twice. The literally toxic atmosphere at the facility made two hospital side-trips necessary due to breathing issues. I had to be treated for pneumonia, bronchitis, and influenza.
I was lucky when I fell, if you want to call it that, I didn’t hit my head, or lose consciousness at all, so there was no concussion, and, while My legs were weakened severely, there were no breaks or fractures anywhere,but a laundry list of health problems surfaced that had been brimming under the surface, caused or made worse by the fall. When I went into the emergency room, I had dangerously low oxygen levels, and even now. I continue to use an oxygen concentrator, although I’m weening off of it as I get healthier. I have systolic congestive heart failure, hypokalemia, atrial fibrillation, as well as chronic diabetes. I take blood thinners, both for my heart and to prevent a recurrence of a pulmonary embolism I suffered back in 2001. I also take a strong diuretic to prevent liquid build-up in my system. All of issues are currently under control, although I am now being treated for diabetic wounds at a wound center.
In the rest home, only my physical therapists treated me as someone capable of going back into the world. Everyone else on the staff saw me as just another “lifer”, doomed to be in that place until the very end. I struggled for months to get out of there, until finally I got my wish -- because Medicare would no longer pay for my physical therapy.
I’m home now, and happier and healthier for it, but my life is a constant struggle. I spend most of my time in a wheelchair, and use a walker to walk. Every day, I’m walking further and longer, relearning and building on those skills I lost in my fall and the weeks in bed that followed. Right now, I’m largely confined to my apartment and the courtyard outside it. The only time I get out of my building is when I take an insurance-paid wheelchair transport to a doctor’s appointment.
I’m an artist. Some of you will know me from my work in TV animation on shows like THE ADVENTURES OF THE GALAXY RANGERS, G.I. JOE: EXTREME, and ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN: THE SERIES, or from my work in independent comics, such as TABOO, and the graphic novel, INFERNO: LOS ANGELES. For years, I was a regular at several local figure drawing sessions. Drawing helped me keep up my sense of self-worth even in the darkest times, and I miss it a lot. I’m deprived of this until I can walk up and down the staircase to my building’s garage again, and get in my car and drive out into the world. That time is probably month’s away, but I know it will come.
I have a care provider for about 16 hours a week. He helps me on the trips to the doctor’s, and with cleaning, laundry, and follows me with the wheelchair when I practice walking, but other than that, except for a few friends, I’m on my own. What family I have is on the East Coast, and can’t really do more than encourage me. Compared to in the nursing home, which went out of its way to make me believe I couldn’t function without them, I have to do practically everything here on my own. It’s a good feeling, but very hard on me.
I’m coming to you on GoFundMe asking for financial help to keep going. I spend long, lonely, nights constantly worrying about money.
With help, I have a sustainable life style. I live in a rent-stabilized one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood, California. My rent is cheap for almost anywhere, although still more than my $669 Social Security check. Staying here is still a far better choice that an expensive move elsewhere, if, in fact, I had anywhere else to go. My original plan was to retire to a reasonably priced part of Europe. This hope was destroyed when my nest egg, a carefully preserved comic book collection that was professionally appraised at $136,310.22, was stolen from my storage space four years ago. The thief was caught on camera in another robbery at the storage building, and confessed. Everything he took of mine was gone, except for a portion of my LP record collection that a wonderful local music store owner contacted me about. As far as I know, the thief never spent a minute in jail. He got off with a suspended sentence and community service in a plea bargain that I strongly objected to. The state however, cared more about saving the cost of a trial that about me and the other 9 victims. He was ordered to pay me $10,000 in restitution. The State of Vermont advanced ne $5000 at the time, which helped get me make it through, but he is now paying me off at a court-allowed rate of ten dollars a month! By my calculation, that gives him about 40 years to settle with me.
Below is a link to the Brattleboro Reformer’s account of the court proceedings. It’s relevant here because of my statement to the court, which Stephen Bissette, well known comics creator, historian, and educator, read in my absence. I wrote: "Thanks to William Brown I can have no real retirement, I will be forced to work until the day I die, scrambling to make the rent." https://www.reformer.com/stories/man-pleads-guilty-to-multiple-burglaries-and-more,146105
Sadly, that has become far worse than accurate. I’m now unable to work at all, as my health care issues and my struggle to recover my ability to walk take up virtually all of my time. The ongoing expense of both maintaining my apartment and paying for my rent, utilities, medical supplies, internet and just buying food and necessary home items is bone-crushing. What I’m asking for with this GoFundMe campaign is support to keep going on, and healing, at a point where I have few resources left, and nowhere else to turn.
My monthly budget is roughly this:
Rent - $1073
Phone/ Internet/Cable - $250
Medical supplies - $125
Lifeline monitoring - $60
Food - $250
Storage - $200
minus- $669 - Social Security
FINAL - $1389
Evening it off, I need $1390 in addition to my Social Security every month to live. This is ongoing, every month. It’s not a lot to many people, just more than I have, and at this point more than I have any hope of getting on my own.
That’s why I’m coming to you for help -- slowly, sometime shakily, in my wheelchair and on my walker. I’ve set my goal for $13,000, which is roughly 9 months budget.
I need help immediately, and my need is ongoing, so please be kind enough to help with what you can. Small donations build up in the long run. Donations can be made from most of the foreign countries you might be in.
If you have any questions, please contact me via GoFundMe, and I will do my best to answer them.
Again, thanks for your help and support.