My friend did not have to die

| 22 Feb 2012 | 01:30

    A friend of mine died last month. He was only in his late 30s, and I don’t think he had to die. Our system that was designed to help the needy failed him. He had become ill and was on disability, and due to extenuating circumstances, he had become homeless, and almost helpless. His disability payments were forever being withheld, and he was forced to borrow money from his friends and often went without food. He was not a bum. Before his health failed him, he served his community by volunteering in the local ambulance corps. He wanted to work, and if he had been physically able, I would have tried to help him get back on his feet by having him work for me. His physical problems ranged from spinal cysts, which caused him severe pain, to metastatic cancer. He had an artificial heart valve. As his health deteriorated, he was essentially turned away from hospital after hospital. He had been in Arden Hill, Horton, St. Anthony’s, Bellevue, Westchester Medical Center, and others. He got the most care from Westchester Medical Center, but even they started to give him the cold shoulder. As his physical condition deteriorated, he would get himself admitted to a hospital, he would be stabilized, and then they would kick him out. Had he been able to pay for medical treatment, I think he would have received the treatment he needed, and he would still be alive. My partner and I made many calls to agencies supposedly in existence to help the needy. The help we were able to procure was fleeting and temporary. We called Emergency Housing and the Department of Social Services. The people with whom we spoke did what they could do, but it was not enough. At one point, my partner and I gave him money for food and housing, but we could only give so much. He swore to us he would pay us back, but he died before that could happen. Over the last year and a half my friend’s housing, when he could get it, was poor. Sometimes he slept behind a convenience store, sometimes at the train station in Harriman. He never had enough to eat, and he couldn’t get the medical care he needed to get cured. I believe because he couldn’t pay, he was left to die. My friend didn’t want a lot from life. He wanted to be able to get a place to live so he would be allowed to get his kids back from foster care. He wanted to live. I was away the weekend before my friend died. I was in a location without cell phone reception. My friend sent me a text message I still have in my phone. It said: “My life keeps getting worse. I don’t think I can keep going on.” I think had he been given some help that wasn’t fleeting, he could have done those things he wanted to do. I think the system failed him. Les Parker Chester