A column by my nephew, Will Doolittle of The Star-Post in Glens Falls, New York:
FORT EDWARD, NY — Jim Sullivan looked at his 3-year-old son Jimmy, sleeping on his wife’s lap, his head turned to the side, his mouth and nose smushed against her chest.
“This is his third head of hair,” Sullivan said.
The drugs Jimmy takes have made his hair fall out. He was born with Down syndrome and, last October, after a bad summer of fevers and vomiting and nasal and chest infections, he was diagnosed with leukemia.
Because of the Down syndrome, Jimmy’s family gets a Medicaid waiver for his care, which they have needed recently. In May, after Jim tipped over an 18-wheeler on a sharp corner, he lost his job as a truck driver.
Losing his job meant losing the family’s health insurance. Jim and his wife, Valarie, also have two daughters — Victoria, 5, and Abigail, 4. The whole family was home on Monday morning this week. Abby, wearing a pink unicorn suit, was sitting at the kitchen table with her parents, peering up at them as they talked about their struggles.
They have three sources of income: Jim’s unemployment insurance, Jimmy’s supplemental security income and food stamps. Valarie used to work as a bus driver, but, after Jimmy’s diagnosis, she stopped to stay home with him. Now she and Jim are both looking for jobs.
Valarie went to Aldi’s, where they were hiring a cashier. About 60 people showed up for the one job, she said. “When we both were working, we were OK,” Jim said. With neither one working, they are not OK.
Last year, they got a couple of months behind on their mortgage. When they tried to make a payment, the mortgage company — Tammac — wouldn’t cash the check because they sent only enough for one month, not the full amount.
Now, they’re about a year behind, and Tammac’s representatives call their house to berate them and threaten foreclosure. Friends and family have given them some cash, which they used to pay the $1,500 fee for a company, Amerihelp on Long Island, to negotiate a loan modification on their behalf.
But it has been nine months since then and nothing has changed.
They’re still in their house, but they’re still way behind on their mortgage. Jimmy is doing better, but he still has leukemia. He loves his bedroom in their little house off Durkeetown Road — “he just loves that room and being in it,” Valarie said. But she doesn’t know how they’re going to stay. She lives with the worry that, any day, they will be forced to leave.
Maybe Ben Bernanke can help. Then again, maybe not: “The damaging error that Bernanke — and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner have committed is to hand out all that money without demanding anything in return from the bankers and financiers.”
Like forcing them to renegotiate the subprime mortgages they continue to milk for every last penny. Ask the Sullivans.