East Coast Rx Express -- Virginia Neill -- Bradenton Beach, Florida
Virginia Neill "broke down early in life," as she puts it, but never knuckled under to misfortune. Attacked at the age of 29 by an autoimmune condition known as alopecia universalis, she nonetheless raised two children and continued to work. Her kids both are in their last year of college.
Virginia, now 52, is an artist-businesswoman-sculptor, who traveled the country showing her animated clay sculptures, displaying them at juried art shows and the like. Many are in private collections; one is in a museum.
Five years ago Virginia moved to Bradenton Beach, Fla., to be her mother's caregiver. She continued to lead a busy, productive life, despite the hardships and what she calls "a long struggle." But her physical condition continued to deteriorate, with degenerative disc and joint disorder and spinal fusion. She is partially ambulatory, but uses a wheelchair when she goes shopping. She finally, and with great reluctance, had to stop working in 2002.
Virginia takes "quite a few medications." She has no health insurance, and is paying her bills out of her trust fund, which is, of course, shrinking fast. She is trying to get on disability, but the government is resisting because she still has the trust fund. She is in danger of losing her home.
Virginia spends between $9,600 and $14,400 a year on her medications - a hefty sum for anyone, let alone a person who is disabled.
Virginia hopes to pick up some of those medications - Celebrex, Prednisone, Kadian - when the Rx Express gets to Toronto. It will help her finances a bit, she feels.
But the larger problem remains. Virginia doesn't understand why this country treats good citizens who work hard when they seek relief for their medical ailments. "I raised two children. I had a 30-year career. I tried in life," Virginia says. Why, in the face of that, is she in danger of losing my home? she asks.
So Virginia has a secondary reason to hop aboard the RX Express. "I want to bring attention to the problem of people like me. I have plenty to say," she adds. "Something has to change in this country."