W.L. family shares struggle to survive
Lost income leads them to skip medical treatments
Updated: Wednesday, 18 Mar 2009, 4:14 PM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 17 Mar 2009, 9:17 PM EDT
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - The Murphy family, Stephen and Sandie, lived their American dream--or at least were working to pay it off in a house in the Capilano subdivision in West Lafayette. For them, as for too many others, that dream is now disintegrating because of the challenging economy.
"After March, I'm not sure what I can do," said Stephen.
The move to the Lafayette area was a new beginning for the Murphys after Stephen lost his job in Ohio. He was unemployed for nine months when he found a management position with Wabash National. He became the Director of the Supply Chain, making sure trailers got to customers.
"In the last two years of the program, I made them $7.5 million," said Stephen.
That's why it was surprise when Stephen was told four years later he would be jobless--again. Wabash National gave him 10 weeks severance.
"I didn't have any indication I was going to be laid off," said Stephen.
Now, 14 months later, he's still looking for a job. The toughest part about being unemployed is Stephen's inability to provide for his children, especially his youngest, Bethany.
"She'll say dad can we do this? I say well, when dad gets a job. Well, one day she said dad are you ever going to get a job...I didn't know what to answer her," said Stephen with tears in his eyes.
A homemaker for 18 years, his wife Sandie decided to go to work to help the family through this second crisis.
"I was in complete shock, complete shock. I was in a panic," said Sandie.
But that never happened because Sandie had surgery on an ankle she hurt after a fall. Instead of recovering and getting back on her feet, she spends most of her days in bed. She developed a chronic, disabling, non-curable disease called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome after the surgery. It's a condition that worsens with stress.
"Tell me how to avoid stress given everything going on right now," said Sandie.
The disease makes Sandie's limbs feel like they are permanently on fire.
"Just to have my feet even resting on the carpet right now is extremely painful," Sandie said.
With no income, the Murphys' lifestyle is vanishing. They tried to sell their house, but couldn't find a buyer. Credit card bills, car loans, and a mortgage go unpaid as Stephen and Sandie struggle to provide necessities for their family of six.
"I got to the point it where it was either pay them or pay the electric and the food," said Stephen.
Finding help proved difficult.
"We're in kind of a gray area too, where we're not eligible for any government or state assistance because technically his unemployment, while its maybe a 10th of what his salary is, is technically too much to get food stamps," explained Sandie.
They pay $1250 a month for COBRA medical insurance, a priority due to Sandie's medical expenses. But even though they are covered, both Sandie and Stephen have forgone some medical procedures.
"You still have the copays and the copays are expensive," explained Stephen.
Stephen postponed a hand surgery and hasn't gotten an annual test for cancer. Cancer free for seven years so far, he hopes he continues to beat the odds until he can afford to be sure. Stephen spends his days searching for jobs. His resume lists executive positions at companies like GE and Colgate-Palmolive. He got a three-month temporary position, but all full-time prospects so far have fallen through. The Murphys say they no longer ask what else can go wrong.
"This sounds like a comedy of errors," said Stephen.
And they laugh, because they can't afford enough tissues to dry all the tears.