When you or someone you love gets unexpectedly sick or injured, life changes. And often we are not prepared. My husband sustained a neck injury at work 6 years ago and we were not the least bit equipped, mentally, emotionally, or financially to handle this crisis. For some reason, we always think that catastrophe will strike others and not our own family. But when it does strike close to home, often we are left devastated, with no clue where to turn.
We were somewhat fortunate in my husband's case. He was injured at work and, living in New York State, his employer had to carry workman's compensation insurance. This insurance has paid for all his medical bills and still gives him a portion of his weekly wage. At first, we thought we would be able to scrape by until he was better and able to return to work. Four surgeries and many alternative treatments later, he was still unable to return to work and we were forced to consider that he might never be able to return to the work force. We now had to face the fact that life might never get back to "normal." For now, this WAS our "normal."
Over the years since my husband's injury, we've managed to stay out of debt. This has not always been an easy task. Both my husband and I determined that my continuing on as a homemaker was essential to keeping our family stabilized. Adding the responsibility of a job outside the home to my daily tasks would only leave me unavailable to attend to my family's needs properly - and probably push me over the edge! However, this decision made it difficult to continue to meet our financial obligations. We needed a "plan" so we could continue to pay our bills without going into arrears.
The very first thing we did was make a joint decision to do whatever necessary to stay out of debt. We decided we would not buy things we couldn't pay for, even if it meant doing without. We also determined that we would do our best to not borrow money - from anyone. We truly believed that God would provide for our needs. We just had to learn to separate our "needs" from our "wants."
Initially, we had to see what income we had coming in. It was evident that we would need more income if we were to stay out of debt. We looked into what kind of aid we might be entitled to since my husband was considered permanently disabled and unable to return to work. While the workman's compensation insurance helped, the company kept trying to lower his payments for the silliest of reasons and even stopped payment several times, leaving us without any source of income. It was obvious to us that we had to find another way.
After six months of being unable to work, our lawyer suggested applying for Social Security Disability (SSD). While this was a very long and aggravatingly slow process, it paid off. My husband was declared 100% disabled and was given SSD benefits that were retroactive back to the time he applied. My children were also eligible for benefits and they too received them retroactively. My husband also became eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. Since we lost our health insurance a year after his injury, we were grateful that at least he was now going to be covered. For additional health insurance coverage for the family, we found an organization that would substitute as health insurance, where we would pay a low monthly "share" and if there was a health problem that required medical services we would just submit the expenses to be paid after a deductible was met. While this wasn't as good as the insurance provided by my husband's employer, it has been adequate to meet our needs.
While the combination of SSD and workmen's compensation payments gave us a base income with which we could eke out a meager living, it only met the bare essentials and didn't leave room for any extras. We explained to the children, who are now entering their teenage years, that if they wanted extra things, they were just going to have to work for them. I was able to find many ways to earn money from our home and when the children helped, they were given their share of the profits. We delivered various publications including our local daily newspaper, a monthly Christian paper, and the local penny saver. Before my husband's injury I had opened a small retail business in my home, selling books. I continued this enterprise and the children frequently helped me. We often used the money to help pay for them to go to camp or buy them clothes they wanted. I was also able to obtain many short-term jobs where the children were able to assist me. For example, we sold refreshments for a local dance recital, rented a booth at a craft fair and sold books and miscellaneous items, and I was able to obtain some work telemarketing and the kids helped with the paper work. Whenever we needed something "special," we found a way to earn the money.
If we couldn't find a way to earn the money, we often looked for programs that would provide scholarships for children from families that were struggling financially. There have been years that money was so tight that we just couldn't afford anything extra, even with earning extra money. During those times my kids had to apply for camp scholarships, YMCA scholarships, and reduced lunch at the public school. While this was humbling to us all, we were grateful for benefits. And we only used these resources when there was no other way.
Besides earning extra income, two "skills" we had to acquire were to learn how to stretch a dollar and how to do without. While it wasn't easy to change our lifestyle in this way, in time we became quite adept at it.
We learned how to stretch our grocery dollar by using coupons, shopping the sales, buying bulk, and going to discount grocery stores. We never went to the store when we were hungry and we always took a list that we were careful to stick to. Eating out was eliminated except for special occasions, and never without a coupon! We would "bargain hunt" for clothes and toys and would often frequent neighborhood garage sales for some great deals. Mailing in rebates was another great way to obtain items at a great price.
With three active children, I looked for fun activities to participate in without spending a lot of money. We would rent movies and pop popcorn instead of going to the movie theater. We were always on the lookout for coupons (usually buy 1 get 1 free) for recreational activities that we could do together or they could do with friends such as miniature golf , bowling, go-carts, athletic events, etc. We would find bargain nights for some activities and would also attend church socials. You'd be surprised how many activities you can find to attend that are free!
We've all learned some important lessons throughout this ordeal. It's not been easy, but trials rarely are. God has shown Himself faithful to my family. He has used my husband's injury and the ongoing effects of his disability to refine us and shape us into better people. We've learned to be content with what we have, to be willing to work for the things we want, and to be sensitive to the needs of others. While I can't say that I'm glad for the injury that still causes my husband so much pain, the results of our affliction have produced character in each one of us. For that I am truly grateful.
Workman's Compensation & Social Security Disability
Patricia Chadwick edits "History's Women" - a free, weekly e-magazine highlighting the extraordinary achievements of women throughout history and recognizing the obstacles they have had to overcome in order to reach their goals. You'll be encouraged and inspired to reach even higher! Visit Patti's site at: historyswomen.com.
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