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First-time homeowner Nina Lindsey's story of hope after brain surgery

One-time bill assistance kept Nina on the road to recovery.

Home is a concept that the speaker at our Restoring Hope Community Breakfast, Nina Lindsey, has been trying to find her whole life.

Growing up, her parents struggled with serious substance abuse and mental illness, and at 12 years old she was transferred to the foster care system. She lacked both a physical and emotional home. So as an adult, being independent and having a place to call her own was vitally important. 

With a stable, well-paying job at Maricopa County Public Health, the single mom of one made a big jump and purchased her first home in October of 2021.

Woman standing in front of her door
Nina Lindsey stands in front of her house. She purchased her first house in October 2021.

Careful with her money, Nina was able to adjust to her new homeowner bills and budget, until her chronic medical condition suddenly worsened.

For the past 10 years, Nina lived with a brain tumor. It was under control, until her symptoms drastically changed. She thought she simply had an itch from athlete’s foot. After many doctor’s appointments, however, she learned it was neuropathy. Her brain tumor had doubled in size within the last year.

When she went to go see a neurosurgeon, he warned her that the rapid rate at which the tumor was growing put her in danger. 

Woman standing in her living room showing a picture of her phone
Nina shows a picture of her before and after brain scans.

“You could be driving down the street and have a stroke,” she remembers him saying.

Nina had good health insurance through work, but the extra bills towards medical deductibles and copays started adding up, leaving little savings for anything unexpected and Nina living on a razor thin budget.

On July 11, she had successful brain surgery and headed home for 6-8 weeks of recovery.

But just a week later, her AC went out – right in the middle of the Arizona summer. Nina didn’t have a lot of options to pay for the $2,500 repairs as the medical bills from her surgery kept coming in, and she didn’t have short term disability yet. She was in crisis. 

“When you are in crisis it is hard to problem solve those things,” she said. “It’s hard to sit down and think, ‘Okay, I do not have any air conditioning. What are all my options?’ And after brain surgery you are really dealing with a diminished brain capacity. I just did not have the strength or mental capacity to ever pursue that [help on my bills] because I already had too many balls in the air.”

She planned to open a new line of credit and work hard to pay off the debt when she recovered.

But she didn’t need to worry, SVdP was there to step in and help. Nina had met SVdP Chief Program Officer Jessica Berg when she worked with a SVdP partner, St. Joseph the Worker, years ago. Jessica saw Nina’s post on Facebook detailing her surgery and the problems she faced with her AC. SVdP provided one-time bill assistance through the Angels on Call fund to help Nina get her AC repaired and focus on her recovery.

Close up view of a woman writing in a calendar
Nina writes in her planner. She used the planner to track her symptoms and recovery for weeks after surgery.

“I went back to work in September,” Nina said in her speech at the Restoring Hope Breakfast, “and even months after SVdP was there to catch me in my moment of crisis, I remain grateful – perhaps even more so as I comprehend the lasting impact of that one-time assistance. You see, right after I went back to work, there was a period where my short-term disability had ended and there was a four-week lag before I could get back onto payroll. If back in July, I had maxed out my credit and borrowed from friends to somehow pay for the AC bill, I would still be in trouble when I went back to work with depleted savings, maxed out credit, and with no money for groceries and gas.”

By stepping in to provide that assistance, it gave Nina the mental, physical, and emotional space to take a breath and recover in the comfort of the home she’d worked so hard to build for herself. Now she can pay it forward and get back to her career helping others.

Make bill assistance possible for people like Nina.

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