By Judi Curry
Have you ever wondered why some people have “good luck” while others continually have “bad luck”? Have you ever wondered what can be done to change the bad luck to good luck? Four leaf clovers? Horseshoes? Crossed Fingers? Prayers? Good Thoughts?
Let me tell you about a young couple – V. & D. – and their two children – L. and K., that I have been mentoring since they were students at Job Corps in 2003-4. They came to us as individuals; she had had some emotional trauma in her life, he was a former druggie. (Not uncommon for Job Corps students, because almost all of them are “at risk” students – ages 16-24 – that are unprepared for the future.)
I don’t know why they came to my attention. (I did know then – and if I ask them they would probably remember.) But they met while living on Center – Job Corps is a residential educational institution and almost all of our students live on Center – and fell in love. As I remember, something happened and one of the R.A.’s (residential advisor) suggested that they be “kicked out.” As the Director of the Educational and Vocational programs, I had the opportunity of talking to both of them – together and separately – to assess the situation.
What I saw were two intelligent people that were having trouble following the rules of our institution. They wanted to succeed; they were on the right path, but every now and then an obstacle was in the way, and they were having difficulty not reverting to old patterns. I went to bat for them, and had them report to me each and every day – sometimes more than once a day. I opened up a bank account for them with the monies they were earning at Job Corps – and each payday they gave me their checks to deposit. Without money, they were not tempted to buy alcohol – they were both over 21 – or drugs.
When graduation day came, they had a substantial amount of money to start their married life together, and both had jobs working in banks in Texas. Why Texas? Beats me, except that is where our placement department found them openings, and the starting salary was more than adequate as was the cost of living.
And so the move to Texas was looked upon with joy and excitement. The couple did beautifully there; they bought a house; bought new cars with the savings they had – not from Job Corps – but from working. And then several things happened. V. was held up while working at the bank. When she called to tell me about it I could see that she needed some therapy to get over the thought of having a gun held to her face. I do not think she got it and even though she continued working, the thought was always very close at hand. And then she got pregnant. And had to quit her job.
He continued working and became the Branch Manager of his bank. She decided to go back to school, and I was so proud of her when she received her AA degree from Phoenix University. But somehow all was not well with Phoenix, and when she wanted to transfer to another school she found that even though she was no longer enrolled at Phoenix, they had charged her for the next semester and she had no monies left for that transfer. And pretty soon he began getting terrible headaches. He saw the doctors but they could not tell what was wrong with him. And then “blue Monday” hit them.
They had over-extended themselves, as so many people did and they could no longer make the payments on the cars and house they had purchased. L. was born, a gifted child I am sure, and V. had to spend more time with her and no longer could work in any position. As his headaches continued he began missing work because the pain was so bad. And V became pregnant again. Eventually they decided to move back to California where both of their families lived so that they could offer some support to the young couple. (In retrospect, their families had never given them support when they needed it – it was doubtful that they would offer support now.) They lost their house in Texas and filed bankruptcy.
They moved into his parent’s home and were treated like Cinderella’s step-children. His mother did not like the noise the two children made; didn’t like the dirt they tracked in on their feet; and were down-right obnoxious to V. It had to be one of the worst situations I have ever heard about. And meanwhile his headaches were getting worse.
He was able to obtain another bank manager position and the couple started saving money so they could get out on their own. He began going to Kaiser – the new job had health insurance – and they discovered that he had a condition that he was born with and would always have the terrible headaches. They also told him that as he aged, it would get worse and could cause paralysis later on in life.
Things went from bad to worse living at his parents, and one day the wicked mother kicked them out. I mean that literally and figuratively. They had nowhere to go; no money to go with. She called me in tears and I wired them some money so they could get a hotel room and not sleep in the car with the two children. Within the next few days, they found themselves living in a homeless shelter in Northern California, getting food stamps, and trying to understand what had happened to them.
Through networking – even our own Christine Schanes gave them advice – after several weeks in the shelter – which they had to check out of each day and then check back in – they were able to rent a house in Tracy. How did they do this? He cashed out his 401K, paid a huge penalty, and put all the money down on 6 months rent.
Let’s fast forward a little bit. Things were beginning to look up. She got a job at a new restaurant in Tracy; did quite well with tips, and was working almost a 40 hour week. And then a 30 hour week; and then a 4 hour week. Explanation – “we hired too many people and did not have the attrition rate we expected.”.
He had a problem with his knee and had to have surgery. Three days following the surgery a blood clot developed and he was rushed to the hospital, where the ER doctor said it was nothing to worry about and sent him home. Six hours later he was rushed to the hospital again where it was discovered that the blood clot had gone to his heart; broke into two pieces and was blocking both lungs. They kept him overnight; gave him blood thinners, and sent him home.
I talked to him after he was sent home. He was in horrific pain; incoherent; could hardly breathe. V. took him to another doctor. But there is a new problem. They didn’t have insurance, and the hospital would not see him without insurance. (We know that they have to see him, but V. made the mistake of asking if they would see him during a phone conversation and they told her “no.” Eventually she just took him and they had to see him. They said that he had had a minor heart attack. Then they sent him home.
A few days ago, with breathing so difficult and pain so bad, V. took him to still another hospital – one not part of the original hospital – when he was immediately put in ICU. They told him they would do an angioplasty to see if they could release the blockage, but not to be too surprised if they had to do open heart surgery because they suspected there was more than one blockage. And somehow, the operating surgeon was the cardiologist that told them there was nothing wrong with his heart in the first place.
How that happened, and how he was in on the case is anyone’s guess. He probably has operating privileges at both hospitals. And what did he find? He found that this was a” congenital problem” – that there is a valve that is supposed to go “over the heart” and in his case it grew “under the heart” and split into a “V” and that what was causing the pain.
Did he fix it? Who knows? He won’t answer their questions; he won’t call them back; and the hospital said that they did not have any records of it. What? D. has no idea what happened to him in the operating room. And since they went up through the groin to the heart, they made a huge “hole” in the area that they didn’t even stitch up – or cover – when they released him, the very next day. And as fate would have it – the day after that he started a new job as a bank manager in another bank – in pain; bewildered; and with no knowledge of what the surgery entailed.
You think that is bad. There is more.
The six month rent was over in May. With very little income, they scrimped and saved to get money for their rent. $1600 worth. V. had a birthday; the kids had a birthday; and they managed to get together rent money. D. went to the post office to get a money order for the rent, and addressed the envelope to the address on the bottom of the rental agreement.
Three days after the rent was due he got a call from the landlady saying that the money had not been received. He said that he had mailed it from the very post office he bought the money order from. She asked what address he had sent it to, and when he told her she became very upset. She said she no longer works there; she left on bad terms, and blamed him for mailing it there. They called the place where the money order had been sent and the person answering the phone told them the same thing – she had left on very bad terms and they SHRED all her mail that comes in.
Including the $1600 money order. The post office tells them it will take 4-6 weeks before they can issue another check because they will have to make sure that no one else cashed the check! When you receive a first class envelope and that person isn’t there, doesn’t the law say that it has to be returned to sender?
We are almost finished. It is 104 degrees in Tracy today. They are still in their house, but I just noticed on Facebook that their Air Conditioner has broken down. D. is trying to recover from his operation; the kids are ill, and this is only one more episode on the “luck” they are having. The landlady is going to give them an eviction notice; they will be out the $1600; and who knows how long the new bank will keep him employed.
There are sad tales out there. This is one of the saddest I’ve heard of in a long time. Any suggestions you might have for them would be greatly appreciated. They have run out of options – I have run out of ideas.