If having a child with severe muscular dystrophy wasn’t hard enough, a Chilliwack family is now facing foreclosure on their wheelchair accessible home.
Alanna and Wes Drews are $35,000 in arrears on their mortgage. If they want to stay in their home, their mortgage must be squared up in full by Jan. 11, a judge ruled in October.
“We’ve always owned our own home,” said Alanna. “It’s hard, definitely. You just feel sick to your heart.”
It makes it harder too when the family of six requires a wheelchair accessible home for youngest daughter Nikki, who was diagnosed four years ago with an aggressive form of limb girdle muscular dystrophy.
Limb girdle muscular dystrophy is a progressive disease that deteriorates the muscles. For 12-year-old Nikki, who’s not expected to live past her late teens, her muscles are wasting away at an accelerated pace.
“Her muscles are dying,” said Alanna. “She has no reflexes, no strength, and she has severe scoliosis.”
Within six months of diagnosis, Nikki, who used to play soccer and skip rope with her big sister, required a wheelchair.
Their heritage home was retrofitted to meet her needs.
A new kitchen was built with lower counters for Nikki to access, as well as a high-countered island so that she could sit with her wheelchair and eat meals with the family. The hallways were widened. The bathroom was expanded to fit a full wheelchair accessible shower. The sitting room on the first floor was also transformed into a bedroom for Nikki, which includes a ceiling lift to get her in and out of bed.
As well, the short stairwell down into the sunken living room was recently fitted for a lift, paid for by the Muscular Dystrophy Association, but the installation has been put on hold until the family knows whether or not they’ll be staying in the house.
The Drews never thought they’d be in this position.
A few years ago, Alanna quit her job as a care aid to attend to her daughter’s full-time needs. At the time, the family was comfortable. Wes had a secure, full-time job as a welder and fabricator.
“For 25 years, it was never slow,” said Alanna. “He’s always been busy with his work.”
But when the economy took a nosedive, Wes’ hours got severely cut back. A year and a half ago, he picked up a second job at Save-on-Foods to help make ends meet.
It didn’t help.
The family scrimped as much as it could, they cashed in their RRSPs, but “once you get behind on one bill, you try to catch up, but then you get behind on another and another, and it just snowballs,” said Alanna.
“It got really bad in January or February of this year. We realized we just were not making it.”
At the Oct. 11 court hearing, when the judge gave them three months to pay their mortgage in full, panic set in.
More than just eight and a half years of memories, their house is Nikki’s safe haven.
“Replacing it is almost impossible,” said Alanna. “Finding one that’s big enough for all us, and is wheelchair accessible, and meets Nikki’s needs, I don’t know if that’s possible.
“Everything is so right here.”
The I Heart Nikki Christmas Craft Fair is on Saturday, Dec. 10, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at White Chapel on Adams Road.
Funds raised will support the family.
So far, $8,631 has been raised.
For more information, or to donate, visit the website www.http://www.iheartnikki.com.