LIMA — Life hasn’t been easy for Ross and Rachel. Every time the couple think they are getting a little bit ahead, another challenge comes to put them even further behind.
It began several years ago, shortly after the couple got together, when Ross, now 22, was diagnosed with kidney failure.
“I just sort of came to this place where I thought if it’s my time, it’s my time,” Ross said. “We’re very strong Christians. I said my final prayer, made my peace with God and just kind of waited to die. Through the grace of God, I was cured. I never understood it.
“Even now, looking back on it I don’t know how I lived.”
That’s when the medical bills began mounting. They’ve been steadily growing ever since as Ross has endured medical problem after medical problem. He’s had multiple heart attacks, was diagnosed with a heart murmur and abnormal heartbeat and has had a series of operations on his stomach.
The medical issues are so bad, multiple doctors have told him working could kill him. The couple have experienced countless barriers, however, in attempting to collect disability benefits to help make ends meet for the couple and their four children — one of whom lives with them full-time.
Rachel has tried getting another steady job — unemployment benefits from a previous job ran out two weeks ago — but she’s been unsuccessful so far. It has made providing for their family difficult to say the least, Ross said.
“We’re barely making it,” he said. “Every day we wake up I’m just glad we made it another day.”
Sometimes, the eldest girl, who is 5, comes in to visit, Ross said.
“She knows I worry. She’s my angel,” he said. “She’ll just come in and tell me, ‘Daddy, I love you.’ It just makes my day. Pain or not, it makes me feel like I could take on the world.”
Ross knows it’s not going to be easy this holiday season. The couple’s eldest child has an idea how hard life is for her parents now and seems to understand, he said, but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.
“I’m always wondering how much time I have left,” he said. “The bottom line is I want to leave something for my kids.”
The Empty Stocking Fund benefits three cooperating agencies: Bradfield Community Center, Cheryl Allen Southside Community Center and the Salvation Army. Money can be donated by sending it to The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima OH 45807, or by dropping it off at any Superior Federal Credit Union branch. Donations of new toys and nonperishable food items will be accepted at The Lima News office. For past stories, go to LimaOhio.com/emptystocking. These stories use assumed names to protect the participants’ privacy.