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Thread: Firefighter pays electric bill to keep teen on ventilator

  1. #1
    Super Moderator twitchy2.0's Avatar
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    Default Firefighter pays electric bill to keep teen on ventilator

    Firefighter pays electric bill to keep teen on ventilator

    By Miguel Marquez and Yon Pomrenze, CNN
    Updated 2:30 PM ET, Fri March 18, 2016 | Video Source: CNN

    Firefighter pays bill to help teen on ventilator


    • Firefighter steps in for family with mounting electric bill
    • Seven machines, all running on electricity, keep disabled son alive
    • Now, more support for the family is coming in


    Clinton Township, Michigan (CNN)When the call comes, firefighters like Ryan McCuen always rush in, never quite sure what they'll encounter.

    On February 11, McCuen walked into this: a mother at wit's end, a bedridden 18-year-old on a ventilator, his emergency battery power soon running out, and electricity to the home cut off by the local power company.
    "I just happened to be put in that spot to do what I was supposed to do," said 35-year-old McCuen. "I was just doing what you're supposed to do."

    'They needed their bill paid'

    It started as a routine call in Michigan for Clinton Township's Engine 5, a "nonemergency medical" as firefighters call it.
    What they found in the living room of this suburban Detroit double-wide mobile home was Troy Stone, who suffers Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a particularly debilitating variation of the muscle-wasting disease. Stone,who has limited movement of his limbs and is no longer able to breathe on his own, had a tracheotomy last December. His family has struggled financially, and they had fallen behind on payments to the local utility.
    Christy Stone, Troy's mother, said their electric bill has gone up threefold since Troy had the breathing tube inserted. It now takes seven machines, all running on electricity, to keep him alive.

    Despite having a letter from their doctor's office informing DTE Energy that "there must be electrical power in the home to maintain ... life support equipment," the power was still cut off.

    "They said it wasn't the doctor's signature on it, it was the nurse's signature on it. So they said it was denied," an exasperated Christy Stone said. Nearly in tears, Stone described how she pleaded with the DTE representative to keep the power on: "How can you deny somebody that's on life support? So I did everything that I could and they just ... it's just messed up."

    A spokesperson for DTE Energy called the situation "unfortunate" and commended the "firefighter for his actions." However, citing privacy concerns, the spokesperson declined to discuss specifics of the Stone's case except to say "we are continuing to work with the family to ensure this situation doesn't reoccur and have referred their case ... to partnering agencies for assistance."

    McCuen, a 7 year veteran of the fire department, heard Stone on the phone with DTE and said his choice became clear. "He had about three hours of battery life," McCuen said. "He needed to be plugged back in. So it seemed obvious what the solution was, that they needed their bill paid."
    Christy Stone was astonished at the matter-of-factness of this firefighter she didn't even know.
    "Ryan was standing there and he looks at me and goes, 'I'm going to pay your electric bill,' and I was just like -- are you serious!?"
    He was, and he did.

    Snapping a picture of her bill, McCuen paid it, all $1,023.76 of it.

    What started as a routine call turned Ryan McCuen into one family's hero.

    A struggle to make ends meet

    Stone and her husband, Guy, had been struggling for years to make ends meet. Together they have five children, and two of them suffer from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rare genetic condition affecting mostly males.
    Stone watched her brother die from the disease and her son, who was otherwise healthy until he was around 8 years old, is now in steady decline; the muscles throughout his body, genetically robbed of a crucial protein, slowly ebbing away. Stone's 15-year-old son Tyler, now using a wheelchair, suffers the same condition.

    Guy Stone, who works in shipping and receiving, was out of work for a year-and-a-half. He's been back at work for a year but with five kids, two with extreme health issues, catching up has not been easy.
    In January, his pay was garnished because a car was repossessed when he was unemployed. That started a slide into further financial instability, the family sinking a little further into debt every month. They've had help along the way from friends and family, a local church and other organizations helping with everything from house and trailer-lot payments to food.

    When McCuen stepped up and paid the bill, it sparked a more sustained round of giving. McCuen wanted to keep his deed anonymous at first but also wanted the family to get help.
    Clinton Township Fire Chief Michael Phy stepped in when he heard what his firefighter had done. "I asked his permission if maybe I could drop his name to local media and maybe start getting the story out there," Phy said. "It wasn't so much recognizing Ryan, but it was really centered around the family and trying to get them some needed assistance."

    After a story ran in the local newspaper more help arrived. One local company paid the electricity bill for the next six months. A generator was donated and installed so even if the power goes out in a storm the family can keep the life-support machines running.
    The family is also trying to raise $100,000 for a new handicapped transport van through a Go Fund Me page. After McCuen's deed, donations to the website went from $900 to $14,600. As of Friday afternoon, the Go Fund Me page had topped $26,000.


    McCuen's action is all the more inspiring considering he wasn't in the best position to shell out over a thousand bucks. McCuen himself had been laid off for four years, in the wake of the recession.

    From 2008 to 2010, Clinton Township Fire Department saw its staff go from 99 people to 64. McCuen was one of those statistics.
    "Everything around here suffered," said Phy. "Not only did we lose people, but everything suffered."
    The fire department slowly turned things around thanks to a brighter economy and help from two federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grants administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a special local tax increase aimed directly at helping the fire department.

    McCuen returned to work in 2014 and last year married his longtime sweetheart, Andrea. Three months ago, they had their first child, Camilla. "I told Camilla, your dad just helped a family who needed it," said Andrea. "He never surprises me when he does something nice. It's Ryan."


    Troy Stone suffers from a rare genetic condition.

    'Ryan is my hero'

    Despite his new family and getting back on his feet, McCuen didn't hesitate. "She had a lot going on," said McCuen. "Taking him to the hospital just creates another bill for these people."
    Troy Stone is ever-smiling despite his serious medical condition; even when the electricity went out, sending his ventilator to its battery backup and deflating his air mattress.
    "The whole bed just went 'pffft,' he just sunk in the bed. And he still had a smile on his face," Stone said.
    Alternating between laughter and tears, Christy Stone said what McCuen did still amazes her. "There are many, many very good human beings out there," she said. "No matter how bad it's gotten. I'm still speechless. It's like a dream. I can't believe any of this is happening."
    Troy, who is unable to speak above a whisper, mouths lots of words his mother can easily interpret. He said he is not afraid of whatever the future holds. As we spoke, his mother mostly interpreting, he was able to raise his voice just enough to unmistakably utter the words, "Ryan is my hero."

    source: Firefighter pays electric bill to keep teen on ventilator - CNN.com
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    Elite Member faithanne's Avatar
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    I can't believe this guy's actions inspired everybody to step up except the power company. I guess they don't care who pays, so long as they get their money.
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    Elite Member sluce's Avatar
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    ^The statement shows the power company has referred them to the resources they need. There are processes to follow, otherwise everyone would say they have a hardship and expect free power. Locally our power company works with several organizations who help people. There is paperwork to fill out and it is very clear of what is needed to prove the hardship. It sounds like they did not follow instructions. There are even groups who will help people fill out the forms.
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    Elite Member choozen1ne's Avatar
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    There is a program called the THAW agency that is in Michigan that would help these people ,if they don't want to fill the simple paperwork out then they get themselves in these situations
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    Elite Member sluce's Avatar
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    ^^^ That. It sounds like this family would qualify for several forms of aid, and usually when they have a case worker they include paperwork for utility aid. Maybe they have been relying on donations from family, friends and church, and not using the aid available from the government so they don't have a caseworker.
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    Elite Member greysfang's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sluce View Post
    ^The statement shows the power company has referred them to the resources they need. There are processes to follow, otherwise everyone would say they have a hardship and expect free power. Locally our power company works with several organizations who help people. There is paperwork to fill out and it is very clear of what is needed to prove the hardship. It sounds like they did not follow instructions. There are even groups who will help people fill out the forms.
    But it says they got a doctor's note for the power company and the power company said it wasn't good enough. They could have directed the family to the appropriate resources at that time but they didn't. This is nothing but fucking corporate greed as usual.
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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Corporate greeds ass. If I had a son in this condition I would have gotten a DOCTORS signature as requested. I would also make damn sure I never got behind on the light bill,especially since just about every church and charity out there has some program for help. Nope. This falls squarely on the parents.
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    Elite Member sluce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by greysfang View Post
    But it says they got a doctor's note for the power company and the power company said it wasn't good enough. They could have directed the family to the appropriate resources at that time but they didn't. This is nothing but fucking corporate greed as usual.
    They did direct the family. The people at the power company who handle these cases are very thorough with explaining that they will receive forms and how to fill them out. The paperwork they provide to be completed lists resources for the customer, including where they can get help completing the form. I have seen these forms when helping some foster families. When the rep at the power company told them the nurses signature did not meet the proper criteria they could have had a letter from the DR Faxed over right away. It sounds like they waited until the last minute. The power company is there to provide power and get paid. They are not responsible for making sure people follow instructions. They get tons of calls each day from people who did not pay and want special arrangements and claim they have a sick family member.
    OrangeSlice and choozen1ne like this.
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    Super Moderator twitchy2.0's Avatar
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    I get that lots of people will try to weasel out of paying debts, but, when someone's life is potentially on the line, don't they check before shutting off the power? It just seems that there should be a system in place to make sure that someone won't die because family members made mistakes.
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    Elite Member Charmed Hour's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by twitchy2.0 View Post
    I get that lots of people will try to weasel out of paying debts, but, when someone's life is potentially on the line, don't they check before shutting off the power? It just seems that there should be a system in place to make sure that someone won't die because family members made mistakes.
    Having someone "fact check" before turning power off would be a huge under taking and a costly one. IMO, the onus is on the family/caretakers to ensure power doesn't get shut off for non-payment. Most power companies will give you at least 2-3 months of non-payment before you get the threatening turn off letters, usually with a one week from date turn off scheduled. Payment arrangements can also be made once you need to miss a single payment. Falling behind to the point you're turned off boggles my mind.

    Re: programs. So many are out there and again the onus falls to the family to investigate. They should have a caseworker of some sort assigned to them. Lots and lots of programs out there besides power assistance that they could benefit from.

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    Elite Member OrangeSlice's Avatar
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    Most of the people I've known (around here) that had power shut off had multiple opportunities and notices before power was cut off. It was usually only cut off after SEVERAL months of non-payment. So, I'd guarantee they had plenty of notice. It really is on the family to make sure they do what they need to do to take care of it. I can speak for this area, that there are tons of assistance programs that they will direct you to for electrical and utility financial support. I'm with sluce. The power companies can't go do a home visit for every situation and there are thousands of people in each area that get into the same final notice situations.

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    Elite Member sluce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by twitchy2.0 View Post
    I get that lots of people will try to weasel out of paying debts, but, when someone's life is potentially on the line, don't they check before shutting off the power? It just seems that there should be a system in place to make sure that someone won't die because family members made mistakes.
    The form sent to be completed by a DR is how they check before shutting off the power. After a person is sent the form there is normally a 14-30 day extension granted automatically to allow them time to file the paperwork. In PA, there is also info on how to file a complaint with the Utility Commission. That gives at least another 30 day extension while the case is investigated. There are SO many options for those who need assistance.
    You don't engage with crazies. Because they're, you know, fucking crazy. - WitchCurlGirl

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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Plus it is the parent's responsibility. Period. Never have I seen Power & Parenting Co.
    sluce likes this.
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