Reaching Out for Help to Save What’s Left

It’s amazing how quickly the entire world, as I knew it, was turned upside down and inside out. Don’t get me wrong, I was never one who thought that bad things couldn’t happen to me because they had, more times than I care to remember. I guess maybe I thought I had already been dealt my share of hardships, but I couldn’t have been more wrong!! I now know that those difficult times were just a warm up for what was to come. I made a lot of mistakes over the years. I am human and not infallible, but I did a lot of right things too. I worked hard, held down a full-time job as a paralegal for most of my adult life, raised my children to know right from wrong (most likely by example on many occasions), I was attentive and involved in their lives and our community - I did it all from the PTO, going on class trips, coaching softball and cheerleading, I was a Girl Scout cookie Mom, a Boy Scout Mom, worked the stands at Little League and football games, chaperoned school dances and the list goes on.

My husband and I had married at a young age and, although the odds were stacked against us, we had gotten through it all and were still together 37 years later. We were looking forward to retirement, which was within our grasp, and had even begun making plans for the future and our “golden years.” Looking back now, it seems foolish as we never once took into consideration the fact that tomorrow isn’t promised and things can change in the blink of an eye and that’s exactly what happened.

It started innocently enough at first - I began experiencing some cramping in my right arm and then intermittent numbness. For the most part I ignored it, but then the same thing started happening to my left arm to the point where I was dropping things, but I stayed silent thinking it would go away, but it didn’t. Instead, the numbness started affecting my legs and quickly spread upwards to my waist. I knew that something was very wrong, but rather than do the smart thing and get to a doctor, I would mention some of my symptoms and ask people for their opinion as to what they thought it might be and, I have to tell you that not one person came anywhere near diagnosing me correctly. Then one afternoon, I walked into the kitchen, where my husband was making a sandwich, and, as I reached into the refrigerator for the jug of water, I sneezed. No big deal, right??!! But it was!! That simple act of sneezing knocked me off my feet and, as I lay on the floor, I realized that I couldn’t get up.

Before I knew it, my husband grabbed me up and carried me to the couch, made a phone call, and off we went to the first of many doctors. I eventually wound up at a neurosurgeon who, after extensive tests, explained that, everything I had been experiencing was due to a slow leakage of spinal fluid from under my brain stem and, because I had not sought treatment earlier, I was now semi-paralyzed and, without immediate surgery, if it was even successful, I would be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.

I ended up undergoing three major surgeries in a 5-week period and then was transferred to a rehabilitation facility in order for me to relearn how to walk and use my arms and hands again. After almost two and a half months, my favorite nurse, Lacey, came into my room and said the words I had been waiting to hear … “You’re going home!!” To say I was excited is an understatement and I counted down the hours as I waited for my release papers to be approved and for my husband to pick me up. While I knew I had a long road ahead of me, including physical and occupational therapy three times a week, and I still needed help with everyday things that I once took for granted such as eating, showering and even getting dressed, I was determined to work hard and do my best to reclaim what I could of the old me. I found an amazing support system in my friends and family and, once again, I thought for sure that the worst was behind me. I could never, in a million years, have imagined the darkness lurking right around the corner.

One morning, as my husband, Charlie, was driving me to yet another doctor’s appointment, he suddenly reached over, turned down the volume on the radio, looked at me and said “Velvet - I have to talk to you about something.” I just stared back, not having a clue as to what was on his mind. He went on to say that he hadn’t been feeling “right” which, for my husband, was an anomaly. As far back as I can remember, he had barely ever been sick a day in his life and, on the rare occasions when he was, he never skipped a beat, took off from work or complained - it just wasn’t in his nature so I was totally caught off guard. He told me that he couldn’t pinpoint it but that he kept getting a metallic taste in his mouth and he felt like he wasn’t able to take in a full breath. We went back and forth with what we both felt could be causing what he was feeling and together decided that it was more then likely acid reflux or something along those lines. We arrived at my doctor’s office and never mentioned a word, foolishly thinking we knew what it was and therefore felt no need to run it by my neurosurgeon.

On our way home, we even stopped at the store where he picked up some Xantac and, after taking one, he said he felt a little better and that was that as far as I knew. Wrong again. Two nights later, when my phone rang around midnight, I saw it was him and assumed he was calling to let me know he was on his way home as was his usual routine. He worked in the bar/restaurant industry so his hours fluctuated depending upon how busy (or not) it was. When I answered, expecting to hear him saying that he was leaving and would see me soon, instead, in barely more than a whisper, he said “Velvet - I’m in the hospital.” When I asked what was going on, he said he wasn’t sure and they were doing some tests to find out and not to worry - he would let me know as soon as he knew anything. I was beside myself but I couldn’t leave to go there as I was babysitting for my little grandson while my daughter was at work. The moment she came in the door, I told her what was going on and quickly went about getting ready to go to the hospital as I hadn’t heard back from him in over an hour.

As I was about to walk out the door, I decided to call the hospital to see if I could get any further information in case all was well and he was on his way home. The woman I spoke to was hesitant to tell me anything, but she finally connected me to the Cardiac Care Unit and I was told that they believed he had suffered a heart attack. Upon hearing that, I felt it only right to call my mother in law to let her know as I would’ve wanted someone to do the same if it had been my child. She was at my house in about 5 minutes (we live in the same town) and together we went to the hospital. Upon arriving, we were told that, although they were still running tests, they believed he had suffered a minor heart attack and they were in the process of inserting stents into his heart to keep the arteries open allowing blood flow. Hours later, as he was wheeled out of surgery and up to ICU, we were relieved to see that he was awake and coherent, although he was still in a lot of pain. And, once again, I foolishly thought the worst was over, he would regain his strength, recover and life would go on as usual, but that was not to be.

The following day, after going home to shower and change, I arrived back at the hospital and was immediately greeted by the attending physician who asked me to come with him as he needed to speak to me privately. By that time, he had received and reviewed Charlie’s test results and, although he had indeed only suffered a mild heart attack, it had happened almost a week prior and by not seeking medical attention for all that time and doing physical labor at home and at work, he had ripped a hole in his heart which was so severe that his chances of survival were not good, but they would and were doing everything they could to give him a fighting chance. That was on a Friday and he was scheduled for open heart surgery on Monday but, as I sat at his bedside on Saturday afternoon, he suddenly motioned me to come closer and I can still hear the words he said “Velvet - I can’t breathe.” I was out that door and screaming for help in a split second and, as the room filled with doctors and nurses, I was escorted out to allow them to do what they needed to do.

Eventually a doctor, who it turned out, was a heart surgeon, walked into the Waiting Room to give us an update. He explained that Charlie had been prepped for emergency surgery which would begin shortly and he expected it to last about 10+ hours and I know he said quite a bit more, but by then, I wasn’t listening because, deep down in my own heart … I already knew and I needed to get out of there to do the only thing I could think of that would bring me any kind of comfort so I announced that I would go home and pack up some food, pillows, blankets, etc. to make everyone more comfortable while we waited, and my son said he would accompany me and my nephew, who is the same age, offered to drive. On our way, I couldn’t help but share what I knew in my very soul was going to be the outcome, but I think they both thought I was being overly dramatic and everything was going to be okay, but they didn’t know what I knew.

As soon as we got home, I made my way upstairs to our bedroom and did what I needed to do which was to talk to my husband’s grandfather, telling him that Charlie was on his way and to please watch over him for me. I had a good cry, composed myself and returned back downstairs and said I was ready to go back. Neither one of them even noticed that I hadn’t packed a single thing and, as we left the house that evening, I knew that nothing would ever be the same again. And it wasn’t. The moment we stepped off the elevator and walked into the Waiting Room, the entire family suddenly stood up and surrounded me and I knew, before they said the words, that he was gone at 57 years old. As we prepared for the services, my son, Michael, took on the role as “the man of the family” and became my rock. We had always been close, but in those days, weeks and now years later, my respect and admiration for him only grew and continues to do so.

I was caught up in my grief and didn’t give a whole lot of thought about the future - how was I going to survive, pay bills, take care of the house, etc. when I could barely take care of myself and that’s what leads me here today. I filed for Social Security Disability and my claim has been denied two times, forcing me to hire an attorney to handle an appeal. I was finally granted Widow’s Benefits which comes to a little over $800 a month. My mortgage alone is almost $1,900, which I haven’t been able to pay in close to two years and I am now in jeopardy of losing the house we worked so hard to buy and was almost paid off. There’s property taxes, utilities, lawn care and everyday upkeep. My medical bills have been astronomical as I was surreptitiously dropped from our policy within two weeks after my husband’s death because I had zero income so I no longer qualified. I had to stop both my physical and occupational therapies which has taken a toll on my physical condition.

The first year, after Charlie’s death, I struggled, as most people do, with the upcoming holidays, namely Thanksgiving and Christmas so I decided, rather than sit home feeling sorry for myself, I would give back, so I volunteered at the local food bank, as well as the Women and Children’s Shelter. It kept me busy and my mind occupied and helping others brought me more joy than I had felt in a long time. Never did I think that one day, in the not-so-distant future, I would be the one needing help, but here I am. There have been many times when I go without food and other necessities because I simply can’t afford it and I was ashamed and uncomfortable to ask for help. Had it not been for my son, I honestly don’t think I would still be here but there’s only so much he can do and so I’m finally doing what I never thought I could or would do and that is reaching out for help.

Thank you for listening - for just that alone I am grateful.


Velvet Poveromo
New Milford, NJ

Your easy, powerful, and trusted home for help

  • Easy

    Donate quickly and easily.

  • Powerful

    Send help right to the people and causes you care about.

  • Trusted

    Your donation is protected by the  GoFundMe Giving Guarantee.