Down on her luck polio survivor trying to regain access to public assistance

With his mother’s deteriorating home now infested with wood ants, Pamela London’s son has made a decision to build a new house behind the existing structure. While he has started, it is difficult for him to complete the task as he earns a meagre salary. London, a polio survivor, is asking for assistance from the public to complete the house (Keno George photo)

In January this year, doctors found a blood clot in one of polio survivor Pamela London’s feet, which resulted in her being hospitalised for four months.

Already faced with many hardships, including a non-functioning wheelchair and a home infested with wood ants, London, 58, didn’t think things could get any worse. And then an issue with paperwork resulted in her being unable to access the $7,300 in public assistance that she has been receiving.

A clearly frustrated London told Sunday Stabroek she depends on the money, especially as it often helps to cover her transportation to attend a clinic in the city.

She resides at Coldingen, East Coast Demerara and she has to use a taxi to travel to the city, which costs her at least $5,000.

London was diagnosed with polio, a highly infectious viral disease, at age two and had spent almost two decades at the Polio Rehabilitation Centre  where she received treatment. The centre was initially set up for children suffering from residual paralysis as a result of the polio virus, for which there is no cure although it can be prevented through immunisation.

London recently told this newspaper that on January 19, during one of her routine check-ups at the Georgetown Public Hospital, doctors decided to admit her for persistent high blood pressure. It was shortly afterward that it was discovered that she had a clot in her right foot and she was told that it was resulting in some damage to her internal organs, including her heart.

London said that the clot was removed and doctors treated her for the high pressure. After being hospitalised for two months, she realised that she hadn’t collected her public assistance which she had collected every month in 2016 without any hassle.

She said while still hospitalised, she asked someone to make inquiries for her. The person returned with a life certificate form, which had to be filled out by her and signed and stamped by the attending doctor.

London related that the doctor “mistakenly” did not stamp the form and this was only realised after the official had submitted the form to the Ministry of Social Protection on her behalf. The form was returned to her and it was signed and stamped by another doctor before being taken back. Since then, she said, despite her efforts, she has been unable to ascertain when she can receive public assistance once more.

Twice a week

The woman added that following her discharge from the hospital on April 27, she made efforts to get money to travel to the Social Protection Ministry’s office at Enmore. After she was unable to do so, she solicited the help of a woman she knew. The woman visited the location, only to discover that the office is now located at Cove and John. “The girl told me that I had to go myself to look after it but I didn’t getting money to go there because they want $1,500 to take me there one way,” she said, while noting that she has been finding it difficult to secure the money or the transportation.

London explained that usually when she has to attend clinic in town, she would usually make the trip on credit and then pay the driver when she collects the public assistance. Back then she attended clinic one a month. Now, she said doctors want to see her twice a week. She said when she explained her situation to the doctor, she was told that there was nothing that could be done until she is properly diagnosed.

In addition, she was informed that she has to do a heart test, which will cost her $3,500 that she doesn’t have. Blood tests that have been recommended for her, however, are free of cost. These will be done on June 5.

“I did explain my situation and they trying to tell me it is for my benefit and the problem is that if the heart fail, it will be too far a distance for me to get to town to get medical attention,” she said.

London has, however, gotten some support from the Red Thread organisation, which is accommodating her at its Hadfield Street office because she is “broke” and cannot afford to travel to and from her home twice a week. She is occupying a space on the lower flat, and also has access to a wheelchair belonging to the organisation during her stay, since hers is no longer fit for use as the wheels can no longer   turn.

According to London, Red Thread and a next door neighbour provide her meals. While at home, she said, she eats whatever she has or a neighbour would sometimes give her food.

Help needed

When Stabroek News first interviewed London more than a year ago, her biggest concern was the state of her home, which had been built by Food For The Poor several years ago. She had explained that because of the rotting wood, holes had developed in the walls.

London said that since then things have gotten worse as there was an infestation of wood ants. As a result, she said her son, who lives with her, is trying build a new house. She said that he is using parts of his meagre earnings to construct a building behind the existing one.

“He started the house January. The house we living in is share wood ants and so it didn’t make sense trying to repair it, so he building it from his salary, piece by piece,” she said, before adding that in addition to doing whatever little he can do for her, her son is also caring for his eight-year-old son.

She said that her son is working on a two-storey house, where he would occupy the upper flat while she would live in the lower flat. She said he has managed to construct a section of the roof but they are in need of wood, furniture and sand.

Anyone desirous of providing assistance to London can contact her on 667-9355 or at Red Thread on 227-7010.

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