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“I was desperate for a way to help my brother”

By Margaux Austin | December 17, 2020 | 4 min read | Community Health, Coronavirus

Kathy and brother David link arms and smile at each other outside David's mobile home

Back in February, David was rushed to the hospital with an aortic aneurysm. His sister Kathy remembers talking with the doctors and worrying as his 3-hour surgery turned into 12.  She paced the length of the waiting room, just hoping he would make it through. While David made it through surgery, another problem arose as it was time for him to go back home and recover.

“David did not feel safe going home,” his sister Kathy shared. “He lived in a small mobile home with a leaking roof and a ceiling that was coming down. We had a 50-gallon drum in the house and would have to empty it every other day if it rained or snowed. His floors were ruined, it smelled of mold, and it was not a safe place for him to recover.”

When COVID-19 started in March, Kathy and her family were still desperately looking for options that David could safely stay at to recover. Once the pandemic started, David was not able stay at the hospital, and his family didn’t feel comfortable putting him in a nursing facility where they wouldn’t be able to check on him.

“Social Services didn’t have many options for us,” Kathy said. “They were able to give him a box of food but had no way to help us with fixing David’s house or finding a safe place for him to stay. I was desperate for a way to help my brother to make sure he could recover safely.”

Kathy got in touch with staff at Watauga, Avery, Mitchel, Yancey Community Actions (WAMY), a non-profit organization that works to break the cycle of poverty. They shared with her about the NCCAA Healthy Homes Initiative. The program provides families with the crucial home repairs that they need to improve their health.

“David did not want his independence taken away. He had pride in owning his own home,” she said. “While he was able to stay with me as we found a solution, I could see him getting depressed and feeling like he lost a piece of his life. When I spoke with WAMY, I felt like we finally had someone who was willing to help us. It was like they gave us a million dollars when they helped us. They went above and beyond to help us fix David’s home; they really did everything they could.”

WAMY was able to build a new back porch with railing and steps and replace his windows that were broken and leaking. While some of the repairs were beyond what WAMY could afford, that would not stop Kathy and her husband from taking action. Her husband Rick gathered donated materials and rallied a volunteer contractor to help. The roof was replaced, the ceiling inside was repaired, and they gave the home a deep clean so it would be perfect for David to return home to.

“David is doing wonderful now,” she said. “He’s happier and feels independent. I feel so relieved he has a safe home, especially as the pandemic continues and we all need to be staying at home. Before, David didn’t care about this home–it was just a place to sleep. Now, he takes so much pride in it and takes care of it. If you could have seen David’s face when he got in the house and saw the difference. He was like a kid in a candy store.”

The conditions of our homes play a vital role in our health. Poor quality and inadequate housing contribute to health problems such as chronic diseases and injuries and can have harmful effects. Many families are unable to afford the repairs and home safety updates necessary to protect their health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is proud to invest in the Healthy Homes Initiative to support those in need of a safe place to stay.

Organizations like WAMY are on the frontlines serving North Carolina communities. They are making sure kids, families, and seniors have a safe place to call home. They are here for our neighbors and communities, and so are we. Learn more about how we’re helping our neighbors like David, and our communities through COVID-19, visit https://www.bluecrossnc.com/covid-19.