Do you heat, or do you eat?
That’s the dilemma that a financially strapped local family is facing this winter as their bad situation worsens.
For Terence France and his family, the struggles they have faced are unimaginable. It’s been a month-to-month struggle to pay the rent for the rural home they rent north of Greely.
France, who went to high school at St. Mark in Manotick, is on disability leave from work. Complicating his health issues has been a recent fight with an aggressive form of acute lung cancer. Passing blood and vomiting blood have become part of the routine for him. In the fall, he was told by his oncologist that he would not make it to Christmas. But he did, and he is still fighting for his life.
Last week, France suffered a minor heart attack while shoveling his driveway.
While he knows his hourglass is nearly out of sand, his main concern is his family.
His 10-year-old son Gabriel is one of only five people in the world suffering from both Kleinfelters Syndrome, which affects one in 50,000 children, and Femoral Facia, which currently has just 700 cases documented worldwide. Gabriel also has Legg-Perthes and has had multiple reconstructive hip surgeries. He will require two additional hip surgeries in the near future, it is likely that the hip with Legg-Perthes will be require a prosthetic hip.
Gabriel is recovering from his most recent surgery. Terence was overjoyed last weekend when Gabriel was able to use a walker and take a couple of steps, his first since the surgery.
“His life has been a myriad of visits to CHEO for appointments and painful surgeries,” said Gabriel’s father, Terence France. “Many of the costs we face are not covered. For example, he had to have his baby teeth surgically removed due to his genetic condition. Although the surgery was necessary for is health, it is considered ‘cosmetic’ and cost us $7,000.”
Complicating the situation for the France family is that Gabriel’s sister has autism. Their mother is unable to work due to medical issues but does not qualify for any disability payments. Terence is trying to support his family and the overwhelming financial burden caused by their medical problems on just 60 per cent of his regular salary while on long term disability.
The family’s van was also involved in an accident at an intersection in 2023. They were unable to pay the deductible fee to the insurance company. They were able to get a rental vehicle but there was a limit on how much time they could have it for. When they had to return it, their own vehicle was still not fixed.
Not having a vehicle while living in a rural area was another challenge, especially since Gabriel has regular appointments at CHEO and was preparing for his latest surgery.
“For a family of four, with the extreme needs of my son as well as the needs of my daughter, it has been devastating,” France said. “Our financial resources and credit limits have been exhausted to the point that paying the bills and buying groceries are no longer feasible. We are in a deep hole with no way out.”
France said that although his son has endured more at his age than most could ever imagine, he maintains a positive attitude.
“Despite the health issues and the pain he has suffered through, Gabriel is a happy kid,” he said. “It breaks my heart that his life can’t be ‘normal’. He will never be able to raise his arms above his head or perform several tasks that the average child can.”
Last year, when the family was facing eviction from their NCC-owned home after the April ice storm, a GoFundMe page was set up to help his family. A few people donated to the fund, but the amount raised was far less than most campaigns raise, and it helped get them through a month or two.
Now, with his family in need and with his terminally ill condition, France has updated the page and is turning to the community for any help that can be given.
The page can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/f/px6x8h-please-help-my-family. France said it is “incredibly humbling” to be in a situation where his family is in a situation where they have to ask the community for help. He added that he is extremely thankful for the support shown by the community during the campaign.