Thursday, September 8, 2005

Evicted for Being Sick

Article posted online by Lara about my current problems:


'CFS sufferer evicted from her own home for being too ill to do housework'.

Karen C, a sufferer of the debilitating neurological illness: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome(CFS) has been forced to leave her home to stay in a motel at her own expense while the local authorities arrange for her house to be cleaned.

CFS (also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or ME) causes a range of symptoms including physical and mental exhaustion, flu like symptoms, post-exertional muscle fatigue, migraines, insomnia and gastro-intestinal disturbances. Although not fully understood it is thought it could be caused by viral or chemical exposure.   In Karen's case, it began with a severe virus and 105 degree fever in 1987; it is thought to have become chronic because because, as a diligent and responsible employee, she forced herself back to work before she was fully recovered in order to deal with work she knew was piling up on her desk..  In early 2000, she was again dragging herself to work sick, and was eventually fired due to inability to do the work to her employer's satisfaction.

Karen lives on her own and is so severely affected by her illness that she is physically unable to carry out more than a few minutes household activities each day. What energy she does have she uses for basic survival e.g. feeding herself and personal care. Even so, the state will not grant her disability status or payments and as such she cannot afford to employ a cleaner or other home help.

Police were called to Karen's house on Friday morning after a friend panicked when she could not contact her. In fact Karen was attending a doctor's appointment, but when police could not get an answer at the property they called a fireman who broke a window to gain access.

That morning, before Karen had left to go to the doctor her cat had chosen an inopportune time to be sick in the house. She was running late and did not have time to clean up before leaving. Her cats have also found the new trick of tipping their litter box while she is out.  Although most of the kitty litter was clearly new and unused, there were some feces which spilled on the floor, leading the casual viewer to the conclusion that she regularly allows feces to remain on the floor for long periods of time, despite the vacuum cleaner's position nearby indicating that it had recently been used to clean just that spot.  On seeing the mess, the Police called in the Board of Health, who subsequently posted the property as unfit for human habitation.

When Karen was finally allowed into the house to gather up a few belongings and her medications, she noticed that the police and firemen trooping through the house had knocked newly-washed laundry off a chair and tromped it through the cat's vomit, requiring her to waste her precious limited energies to rewash the laundry.  They had also knocked a book out of a box, and gotten that into the mess as well, requiring the book to be thrown away.

It was also commented on that there were flies around her outdoor trash bin.  Despite the fact that Karen had hygenically disposed of food scraps in the outdoor bin rather than luring the flies indoors to the kitchen bin, she was criticized for having bugs on the trash, leaving her utterly puzzled as to how they would recommend she dispose of spoiled food in an old-fashioned kitchen without an in-sink disposal.

Rather than being provided with alternative housing and assistance in obtaining much needed housekeeping services she has been begging for over the past five years, Karen has yet again been forced to fend for herself. She is now faced with the Hobson's Choice of whether to land in hospital by pushing beyond her physical limits to try to clean as much as possible herself, or to allow the city to send a bill she cannot pay, for a cleaning crew which might not differentiate between her critical legal papers and junk mail. 

The friend whose unwarranted phone call to police (just moments after her first failed attempt to reach Karen) set the unfortunate chain of events into motion inexplicably denies any wrongdoing and refuses to help at all with either the cleaning or the massive expenses Karen is incurring, saying that Karen alone -- and not all the people who have been asked for help and refused -- is responsible for both the condition the house is in and returning it to good order.Karen has for now had to check into a motel while the house is cleaned and she won't be allowed to return until she has the property re-inspected. This will not be before Tuesday at the earliest due to the Labor Day Weekend, and she expects the cost of her stay at the motel to run to some $300.

That a disabled person could be placed in this situation may seem unbelievable however, as a CFS sufferer, Karen is far from unique. CFS is a condition, which often affects sufferers so severely that life becomes a battle for survival. As the disease, does not show up on routine blood tests and is difficult to diagnose it is often dismissed by doctors as simply 'all in the patient's head'. Without supporting medical evidence it then becomes very difficult for sufferers to obtain disability or private insurance payments, leaving them fully dependent on friends and family for financial and social support.

In fact, earlier this year, Karen had a result the doctor's office called "off the charts" on a C Reactive Protein test -- CRP indicates infection, inflammation and heart disease -- yet a few months later, her application for disability benefits was again denied despite objective proof that something is very very wrong physically. As it stands, until government and disability departments get their houses in order as far as CFS goes, Karen can be sure that hers will remain in a mess.