Medical/Survival of our family

Welcome, my name is Thomas Wetsch, my wife is Leslie and my stepdaughter is Alayne (Lani) Cleveland. We have been a family for twenty years and have had our ups and downs, but have always pulled through until now and we are on the verge of being homeless.
I will start by going through a medical history of our family. In 1996 my wife Leslie had her first foot surgery to repair a broken bone. In 1997 she had her left knee ACL repaired. In 1999 she had right foot surgery to repair two broken bones. In 2000 she received an accidental cut on her right foot and had to have the hardware removed due to infection and ended up with a PICC line for intravenous antibiotics. In 2003 she lost her job after ending up in a wheelchair due to the ulcer in her right foot. Though it eventually healed, she was plagued with returning foot ulcers which occur until present, resulting in confinement to a wheel chair for most of this time. In 2005 she was approved for Social Security Disability. In 2008 she finally received a diagnosis for her foot: Charcot foot  syndrome. In 2011 she almost lost her foot froom an extensive infection and wound. From September 2011 to February 2012 she had five surgeries to repair her foot, as well as a broken tibia and fibula which resulted when the hardware in place for the foot repair broke and cracked those bones. In 2013 she underwent an Umbilical hernia repair, which resulted in compications requiring a second surgery to fix an intestinal block. In 2014 she had total right foot reconstruction. She is now undergoing physical therapy to get her walking back. She has been through so much, but still has more surgery ahead: a repair of a probable rotator cuff tear in her right shoulder & a major abdominal surgery for something she made me promise not to discuss here.

In November 2010 my stepdaughter (Lani) came to live with us to help with her mother and I as I was having foot problems too and also needed to go to my mothers funeral in another state.

Lani has several health issues, she was diagnosed with ADHD at age 5 and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2006 and PSTD in 2011.  She has had COPD and Asthma since age 19.
On December 5th 2011 Lani and I were rear ended by a driver as I was taking her to the emergency room for her Asthma/COPD. She ended up having 6 bulging discs (3Cervical, 1 Thoracic and 2 Lumbar). She has arthritis in her spine and both knees. She is currently undergoing tests for possible Occipital nerve damage.

I have had back issues which go back to the 70's, compression to my discs after falling from scaffolding 30 feet high when I got a whiff of H2S while working in the oil fields and blacked out for a couple of seconds and landed on my feet.  I was in a automobile accident in the late 70's which put me in a back brace. The recent Automobile accident in December of 2011 extremely provoked my previous back injuries and caused me to go back into pain management and therapy.

I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea in the early 90's and found out I had not been sleeping properly for 40 years (my nasal cavity was the size of a youngster). Once I received help I finally started sleeping. I still have to use a CPAP at night. Other problems I have been diagnosed with include Hypertension, COPD, Asthma and a collapsed lung, with partial removal of the left one.

I will go ahead to 2008 when I lost my job and things started taking a downturn, my boss sold the business, with new owners saying they would keep me on and the day of the sale giving me a 30 day notice and saying they were bringing in their own people. I started looking for work the day my boss told me he was selling the business. We stayed in Northern California while I continued looking for work  (300 plus resumes, 13 interviews, 3 callbacks and no job). using savings to live on. I have not been able to find work since.

We took an offer my mother made us and moved in May 2009 to North Dakota, where we could live rent free. I figured with the internet I could look for a job from anywhere. We were able to save a little money.

In February 2010 Leslie's stepmother, who suffers from Alzheimer's, was unable to continue living on her own, and we needed to get to southern California to get affairs in order for her. In December of 2009 I was helping my mother with Christmas decorations hauling them from in and out of the garage taking my shoes on and off so as not to track snow in the house and developed a blood blister on the bottom of my left foot. I was treating the wound and got an infection in it that would not heal. It still was not healed by February when we headed to Southern California and ended up picking up a super bug in my foot with a rare Gram Negative Bacteria, the flesh eating bacteria type. My wound went from a 5mm blood blister to a wound the size of a silver dollar and went into the bone. My Doctors were talking amputation of my left leg to stop the spreading. I was lucky to have a great prayer circle and an antibiotic which slowed the growth and saved my leg. The infection was kept from spreading and we worked on healing the wound. The infection was isolated to the bone and I had osteomyelitis. When the wound was finally covered over with a callous, the Doctors began talking about removing the infected bone. Leslie and I were both ordered on minimal weight bearing during most of this time period and we both had to wear a boot when going to transfer to the bathroom or wheelchair (Both wheelchair bound at the same time.). This is the period when Lani came to live with us. My mother passed away in November and I got permission from my Doctor to travel for the funeral and was ordered to stay off my foot as much as possible. It was stormy winter weather in North Dakota and not easy getting around on the snow polished ice with one good leg and a cane, only fell down more times than I care to, whacking my head on frozen ground a couple of times. This delayed the healing of my wound.

In 2012 my stepmother in-law's nursing home increased her monthly payment, (We were paying her mortgage and insurance, also helping with her medications, in exchange for rent, so she could still own her home.) Her court appointed guardian recommended to the judge that they sell her home to pay for her nursing home and we were forced to move. During this move my wound reopened and we started all over with the healing process.

We have always preferred living in Northern California and made a trip up to find housing. We made the move to find out the house we were moving into was no longer available and were forced to put our belonging in storage and live out of a motel for a couple of months while looking for a house-a handicap accessible one, at that, using up all our financial savings and having friends and family help us out so we could move in. We were able to  move in and I was unable to help with the move due to my foot, was on the way to getting healed, my wound healed over again and I had a total removal of the diseased bone in July 2013. After a few  months of non wieght bearing, I was walking! Had a great team of Doctors at the VA.

Around 2006 I was diagnosed with Graves Disease after complaining of several symptoms through the years. (Graves Disease is an Autoimmune disorder which affects the thyroid gland.) If I would have been diagnosed 40 years ago, how different my life would have been. It affects my mood, which ranges from Depression to Anxiety and always to extremes, mostly depression when alone and high anxiety around people, I thought this was normal. The depression got worse as I got older, the anxiety less. It also causes Hypertensive Retinopathy, I become easily agitated, and my back, neuropathic and arthritic pain become greatly exaggerated along with other fun things. Graves Disease is controlled with medication and the medication is tapered off when the thryoid levels get back to a stable, normal level. It reoccurs from time to time with all the old symptoms returning. It is presently rearing it's ugly head, my Doctor is thinking maybe we should try other approaches to try an keep it at bay permanently (Radiation or new medication), we will see.

These are the major health issues facing us, which have caused us to have numerous medical expenses which are not covered by insurance through the years, which used up the rest of our savings and credit rating. We still have the  health issues and work well as a family to get as much done as possible.

With help from some dear friends and family we will get through this. We were on track with getting our bills caught up, and start doing some major needed repairs on the car including a timing belt and new tires (The cord is showing through on the tires), when my monthly income took a 75% decrease and we were unable to pay the rent and pay the bill arrangements we had made with utilities and other essential services. We got rid of cable when our contract expired to save money. We have gone to several local charities and they are so overwhelmed with requests, they are not even returning phone calls , we now face eviction at the end of the month and have not repaired our credit enough yet to get a loan from a bank. These are our short term needs to pay everything off and get caught up, so we can get by until my income starts increasing and our two businesses get off the ground (We have started selling handcrafted jewelry and knitting that Leslie does and items made from other artists, both online and at Farmers Market type events. We are starting to get some notice, but sales are slow to pickup.). 

Our long term goals include getting a midsize fuel efficient vehicle to convert to haul Leslie's electric wheelchair. As of 2010 we are unable to load it in the PT Cruiser due to health issues (I used to man handle it in by taking it apart.) We are also in need of dental help, the VA does not cover dental and we have not been able to afford other dental, for myself or family. 

Thank you for taking the time to read our statement.


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Tom Wetsch 
Vallejo, CA
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