Life’s Angels 2020 Beneficiaries
Travis Gentile is a 29 year old Long Beach resident who had everything he wanted in life. He had a job he enjoyed, a soulmate to share his life with and he lived an active lifestyle. That all changed on Super Bowl Sunday this year. Given Travis’ commitment to give back, he participated in the Polar Plunge for Make A Wish. When he took that plunge however, he heard a crack and thought his life had come to an end.
Travis has been in the Rusk Institute since he was pulled from the water and is currently paralyzed from the chest down. His insurance is limiting his stay and his family is seeking a similar facility to continue his rehabilitation. It will be a long time before he returns to his Long Beach condo which he still owns and is paying mortgage and maintenance. His employer is only paying a portion of his salary and even that will soon end. Whenever it will be that Travis does return however, alterations will be required given his disability and current confinement to a wheelchair. Medical bills are mounting and Travis’ future remains uncertain.
While trying to help others, Travis was dealt a bad hand. Travis now needs the help and Life’s Angels is here for him.
On their wedding anniversary in 2018 Janine & Chris Moger’s life changed immediately. Chris was first diagnosed with a kidney stone at the hospital, then with shingles, then with stage IV esophageal cancer. After a very difficult 17 months of painful treatments and watching Chris deteriorate, he passed in January of this year. Janine is now a widow left alone to raise their youngest children, Seraphina, age 4 and John, age 8. She is struggling to cover their basic necessities like food, utilities, gas for the car and other expenses; this family’s savings are depleted. The trauma of Chris’ illness and passing has caused a great emotional and financial hardship on Janine and the children. During Chris’ illness, despite his desire to do so, he was unable to remain gainfully employed. Janine is now in jeopardy of losing their modest home to foreclosure, and is trying to provide a sustainable and balanced life for her family. The challenge of the Moger family is a reminder how life can change in an instant.
Helen is Kayla’s custodial grandmother. They live together in a subsidized apartment. In addition to the housing assistance, they are both on SSI. They avail themselves of food pantries in order to eat. They have been living in this apartment for one year after having been evicted after 22 years from a landlord who left their belongings on the curb after selling the house with only 30 days’ notice to find a new apartment. Helen’s daughter, Kayla’s mom has minimal contact with them.
Both Helen and Kayla have Gorlin Syndrome which is a rare disorder causing multiple cancers and tumors. Kayla has already had two cancerous brain tumor surgeries and both ovaries removed due to large tumors. Kayla has 3 liver tumors, a leg tumor and over 1000 skin cancers which causes her much teasing from her classmates at school. She is enrolled in a special education program at High School given her learning disability and hearing loss and optical problems. She is transported by a special bus as Helen does not own a car. Helen and Kayla require multiple buses to get to their treatments and everyday needs. Helen has been on chemo for one year with no end in sight and a lot of severe side effects. She has lost over 100 pounds and has lost all energy to do daily activities as part of the side effects. But she’s a fighter and pushes herself to provide for her granddaughter. She has also had multiple cancers and tumors, hundreds of skin cancers and has multiple disabilities causing severe chronic pain. She requires a walker to get around.
Given Kayla’s symptoms, St Jude has even turned her away as they do not know how to treat her. Kayla’s medical bills are mounting as different treatments are being tried and not in so many words, she is being used as a “guinea pig”. Doctors are following the tumors but are unsure what to do about them. Agencies have turned them away for help due to the fact that though Kayla has cancer she is not “in" treatment. And she is not in treatment because the doctors do not know what to do. A child should not be getting all these tumors, their syndrome is rare and there are no chemo treatments approved for a child of her age. She falls in so many cracks and is ineligible for multiple programs. Or the sad part being told to them that this syndrome is chronic with no end in sight so agencies do not want to help.
Life’s Angels 2019 Beneficiaries
Johnathon Cahill is an 8-year-old cancer survivor. He had liver cancer when he was a little over a year old. The treatments on his little body have left him with permanent hearing impairments in both ears. He is such a fun and joyful kid. He is the youngest of three children, his brother Joey and sister Sarah have been a huge support to Johnathon. His mother Amy had to leave her job when he was sick. As a single mom, it has been difficult for them to overcome the financial burden of healthcare expenses and missed work time. They recently had to move and the family was uprooted and in a new school. Johnathon is really playful and would love the opportunity to just “be a kid” this summer at Saddle Rock Ranch and at Camp Adventure’s sleep away camp.
The Lombardo Family Jennifer, 38 years old has not spoken with her dad since she was abused at age 7. Her mom is very self-centered and provides little to no support emotionally or financially. The biological dad of her first son left two years ago to Colorado and has no contact whatsoever with their son Ben.
Ben is 14 years old in 8th grade in a Special Education program. Ben just completed his 6th hospital admission. He is now in an outpatient program 5 days a week from 11am – 7pm for psychotherapy. Ben also has Pica, an eating disorder.
Jennifer and Anthony have been married for 9 years. Anthony is 10 years older than Jennifer and he is employed as the catering manager at the Long Island Aquarium. This is their sole source of income. Jennifer was a LPN for 12 years at Brookhaven Hospital, but stopped 2 years ago to take care of her children full time. Anthony’s parents are in their 70s and can’t physically help with the children.
The following are Jennifer and Anthony’s biological children:
JJ is 10 years old in 5th grade. He has ADHD and Bipolar disorder. He is enrolled in a special program called 8-1-1, eight children, one teacher one aide. JJ was admitted last year for a psychiatric hospital stay. Jennifer and Anthony have a caseworker in their house one day a week to help with JJ.
Aidan is 8 years old in 3rd grade. He is autistic with limited verbal skills and a sensory processing disorder. He has not had his hair cut in 10 months either at a barber or even in the house as it is too painful for him. Aiden needs feeding therapy for his nutrition.
Alex is 6 years old in 1st grade. He has juvenile arthritis and osteomyelitis which an uncurable, lifelong condition. Alex is always in great physical pain. He has lab work every month for bone marrow aspirations (very big needles). Alex is also anemic. He is under the care of a rheumatologist and oncologist.
Dina L. On September 9, 2018 Dina, age 54 fell down the stairs in her Merrick home where she has lived all her life, and suffered a massive brain injury. She also suffered a stroke. She needed to undergo emergency brain surgery, craniectomy, and then a second operation a cranioplasty. The shunt now in her brain helps with the leaking fluid. Dina, who lived with her husband now resides a Brain Rehabilitation Center in Queens. She was admitted in October and was told she will be there for minimum of six months. She still has expressive aphasia on her entire right side of her body from her face to her toes. She has improved to only 25 % of speech, but even that is jumbled.
Her husband Ralph, children Marie and Joseph, parents Mary and Bill, siblings Mark and Billy, as well as countless friends and neighbors visit her daily. There is always someone at Dina’s bedside to show love and support during this time. Prior to her injury Dina was a pillar of her community always lending a helping hand including daily visits to a 98 year old dementia patient.
The family expects massive medical bills that are not covered by their insurance and they have just started to come in this month. They are not in a position to estimate the level of care Dina will need between therapy, in -home aide, whenever Dina is able to return home, and other associated costs given the extent of her injury.
Allyson Bryant At age 6 Allyson was diagnosed with leukemia and had multiple chemo treatments. Unfortunately, her immune system did not regenerate after the treatments. Allyson was a dancer and had dreams of being on Broadway. She actually performed in local and regional theater . . . in either a wheelchair or a walker. In her early teens she noticed that she was tripping on her own feet and they were dragging. Her parents not only did not support her, they seemed oblivious to her situation. It was a school nurse that noticed her condition, multiple sclerosis. The early chemo prevented the “usual medications” from working so Allyson began experimental treatment. Botox and Baclofen were shot in her legs which worked, temporarily. Allyson returned to the walker.
Allyson is now 28 years old and lives alone. Her parents who are in their 70s and living in Tennessee provide neither emotional nor financial support. Allyson cannot work given her condition. She was finally approved for special housing this last October after an extremely long waitlist requiring her to live in very challenging and non-accessible residences. Her total income is limited to SSI, as well as Medicare/Medicaid and food stamps. Her current outstanding medical bills she estimates at $25,000, and growing.
Given the Medicare restrictions Allyson can only receive therapy and PT once a week. To supplement her exercise, she is part of a MS Swim Program at the JCC. To supplement that she spends each day at home stretching to the extent she can. Given the Medicare restrictions on her medication is why she is utilizing experimental alternative treatments. She is currently receiving chemo that causes her fatigue, bladder and muscle weakness, and dimming eyesight.
Allyson does have a special car that she can drive with modified controls. Given her limited income, she cannot afford new tires that she needs, and she must very carefully budget between, food, gas and medication. She is using a food pantry to supplement her nutrition. Her days are spent going to doctors, therapy, swim and reading.
Allyson has a wonderful outlook on her life. She volunteers when she can at MS support groups for young adults who can relate to her, rather than older people. She tells them what she knows “that MS will not kill you, but it will make your life a living hell”.
Life’s Angels 2018 Beneficiaries
Lillian, the youngest of 17 children was given away at 3 days old to her elderly aunt and uncle. While in the 4th grade she was molested by a school bus driver. At 13 she attempted suicide. While in a mental hospital she became pregnant with her daughter, and then was the victim of domestic violence. When her son was in 2nd grade, he became the victim of sexual abuse at school. Lillian still suffers from depression but is doing her best as a single mother trying to support her son with behavior problems and her daughter with celiac disease. She went to school and is employed as a medical assistant, but recently had to take off as she underwent surgery after the discovery of precancerous cells.
Several years ago, Rob woke up in the middle of the night, fell on the floor and was paralyzed from the waist down. He had surgery and learned to walk again, until last year. He noticed a small cut on his foot. It became infected. Despite many hospital trips and intravenous drips, due to his diabetes, the bone became infected and his leg needed to be amputated below the knee. This meant he was wheelchair bound just as his 32 year old special needs daughter who lives with him and his wife. Seven days after their daughter’s birth she developed a high fever and was diagnosed with a rare form of bacterial meningitis. Kristina has undergone, brain, stomach and other surgeries. Rob has recently been approved for a prosthetic leg, however it will be a long time before he can regain the physical strength to care for himself and his daughter.
Chris is a 17 year old high school senior who was diagnosed in 2002 with Tri Lateral Retinal Blastoma. At that time he had 5 tumors in his eyes and one in his Pituitary gland. He came through that journey after multiple rounds of chemotherapy. In 2017 Chris had a relapse and that time he was diagnosed with Osteo Sarcoma a tumor in his Left Femur and he went through 7 rounds of chemo therapy. A few weeks ago he was admitted to NYU Langone and had an operation removing the tumor in his leg and doing a distal flap on his femur taking bone as I understand it from his fibula.He is now in the hospital facing another 11 rounds of chemo over the next 4 months. This wonderful family is struggling to hold it all together. Mom and Dad work. Dad is at the hospital the most and his current position with the police department is allowing him a flexible work schedule. Chris loves cars, loves car shows and is a real techy kid. This weekend has hit him hard and he is struggling to understand why?