John McEvoy has been a hard-working, physically active man most of his life, but on January 29, 2014, everything changed. “I lost everything I worked for my whole life – except my house and a 1997 Jeep.”
Thirteen years ago, he had a fusion of his lower back. It was a long recovery, but things seemed to be going along fine. Then one weekend things changed. He felt this sharp pain like a knife being stuck into his lower back and down his left leg. He thought he had just pulled something or that it was just part of the normal soreness he had become accustomed to. But the pain wouldn’t go away and finally he had to admit that something was really wrong.
His doctor eventually concluded that the only way to fix his new pain was to do another fusion. This second fusion was complicated, but ultimately was considered successful. At the time he says he felt lucky to have short-term disability through his employer, but this just lasted for six months and was only $382 every two weeks. When his short-term disability ran out, he lost his job as there was no way he could continue to do the physical labor that the work demanded.
After he realized that he would not be able to continue his work he said he became very embarrassed and scared. “I had no income then whatsoever. I had food stamps and was filing for disability, but that was a long process.”
It took nearly ten months to get approved for Social Security disability, but his payments didn’t start until the beginning of 2015. There is a two-year waiting period to qualify for Medicare, so in the meantime the medical bills were piling up. He eventually got insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, but it didn’t cover all of his medical expenses.
One of the ways John has found some relief from his pain is through helping others by volunteering with the St. Vincent de Paul Society. It was at a meeting of the Society where John first learned about Brightpoint. He was connected to a family development case manager who helped him figure out what assistance was available to him, but he admits it was really hard for him to even ask for help.
“I know it is very difficult for a lot of people to ask for help – trust me – I’ve had to do it,” explained John. “It’s embarrassing a lot. You feel downgraded. So I understand why a lot of people do not do it. You are in such a vulnerable state of mind when everything you’ve worked for your whole life is gone. And you don’t know where you’re going to stay. And if you can’t stay, where are you going to go?”
John has not been able to do his volunteer work recently because of his continued health issues, but he is eager to get back to it. When people come to the St. Vincent DePaul Society for help, John helps them with food and other assistance, but what he aims to give them is so much more. He wants to comfort them and let them know that he understands what they are going through.
“I personally believe that being a Vincentian is more than just giving bags of food out… it’s trying to talk to the people and let them know that I know what it feels like to do this. I know what it’s like to live on hot dogs and rice for a period of time. I know what it’s like answering the phone and it would be another bill collector and not knowing where to get help, where to turn. There are a lot of tears involved.”
John says he doesn’t know what he would have done without the help he received from Brightpoint and he encourages others to make the call to see if they too can be helped.