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  American Nightmare  

American Nightmare
Michael Mcelroy

Across the country more and more people are falling through the cracks, losing their homes and their lifestyle because of an inadequate health care system. There was a time when we believed in the American Dream, the pursuit of a better life. Unfortunately that Dream has become a nightmare for countless families who have seen everything they've worked so hard for slowly slip away. Howard Mallinger is one of those Americans whose dream has been shattered. Howard and his wife, Sheryl, eked out a living working as supervisors on an election board in New York. Sheryl also doubled up as a professional exam proctor, while Howard drove a taxi to add to their income. After years of scraping by and saving money, they finally came to the point where that dream appeared to becoming true. In 2006, the couple purchased a condo in Sunrise, Florida and headed south to start a new life and live their version of the American Dream.

Everything seemed to be falling into place for the Mallingers. They were finally able to relax a bit and enjoy life after so many years of hard work. This is where Howard's story takes an unexpected turn and things begin to spiral out of control. Sheryl a women full of energy and always on the move was suddenly diagnosed with stage four brain cancer. Doctors told Howard that his wife had a few months to live and he should prepare for her death. For the next 18 months Howard was at his wife's bedside with unwavering devotion tending to her needs as best he could. He always fought for the best care possible for Sheryl. His only concern was making her smile and just being by her side to make her last days as comforting as possible. Meanwhile the mounting medical costs were staggering. Howard was not able to keep up with them leading to his inability to keep up with the bills. This resulted in the utility company shutting off his power. His condo fell into foreclosure. At one point he calculated that he owed more than $200,000 to hospitals, drug companies and the banks. With his Social Security payment, a meager monthly income of $1,170, he could not pay the bills.

On August 17 2009 at 1:12 am Sheryl Mallinger lost her battle with cancer. Howard lost the love of his life. In the process, He lost his wife, their condo and the life savings they scraped together after all those years of hard work. Howard is now let with only his memories and the broken pieces of a dream the couple once shared. This was not their plan for their twilight years. Though he is broke and feels humiliated by his circumstances, he continues to try and put the pieces of his life back together. He will still tell you, "were there's life there's hope."