News

Woman looks to NAU for help after disability, finds frustration

Nov 22, 2017 Culture

One Prospect woman says she's about to lose everything. After a year of medical issues requiring nearly a dozen surgeries, she found herself unable to work. With her and her husband's pension and savings depleted, Cindy Abrahams told Cayman 27 she was forced to turn to the Needs Assessment Unit for help, but is only finding frustration. "This is my engagement ring," said Ms. Abrahams tearfully, "I had hoped that I would be able to give it to my granddaughters." Instead of becoming a family heirloom, Ms. Abrahams said her cherished conch pearl engagement ring is now up for sale. "To have to sell it is heart-wrenching," said Ms. Abrahams. Ms. Abrahams world changed last year. She was working as an HR manager when she was hospitalised with abdominal pains in October. That began a year-long fight for her life that included a medically-induced coma, multiple life-saving surgeries, and the removal of part of her intestines. "A good portion of my large intestine was necrotic, the entire abdominal area was full of infection and septic, my blood infection, every organ became infected and they have no idea what caused it," she recounted. Unable to work, and reliant on her husband for care, she said the medical struggles took a heavy toll on the couple's finances. "We have depleted all of our resources, our credit cards, our savings, our checking is our pensions, everything has been depleted," said Ms. Abrahams. With nowhere else to go, the Abrahams went to the NAU for assistance. They were approved for food and utility vouchers but said they were never told during the application process that poor relief may be available. When they finally applied for poor relief, they landed at the back of a queue hundreds deep. Now, the situation is growing desperate. She said she is due to lose her health insurance at the end of the month. "How long and how desperate does a person who is in a medical situation have to wait before something happens," she said. After her interview with Cayman 27, she had yet another appointment with the NAU. "I have to go down there today at 1 PM to provide the same information that we have already provided in June, sign more forms, and everything else, and it is an ongoing process," she said. "It is completely insane." Ms. Abrahams said the process is in need of an overhaul. "They are completely understaffed and they have so many layers of bureaucracy and so many repetitive processes, it is not a streamlined process at all, it is not an easy process to go through," said Ms. Abrahams. The NAU said it's unable to comment specifically on the Abrahams' case, but did provide some insight into the situation at the Needs Assessment Unit. The number of persons waiting for permanent assistance was not immediately available, but the NAU said it provides assistance for some 1,800 families. "Due to the various checks and information necessary this process is not immediate," said Acting NAU Director Matthew Hylton. "However, temporary assistance is offered at times pending the approval of the Permanent Financial Assistance."