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Ypsilanti couple faces mountain of health, financial woes months after COVID diagnosis

'I felt like I was slowly dying'
Posted at 5:29 PM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 18:41:05-05

YPSILANTI, Mich. (WXYZ) — It's hard to find anyone not ready to say "goodbye" to 2020. Sadly for an Ypsilanti couple, after already facing a trying year -- 2021 is looking just as grim.

Michael and Jenny Pendergrast were both diagnosed with COVID-19 in late February.

“We were both sick for about a month. And I started getting better and Mike he never got better," Jenny told Action News via Zoom.

The couple isn't totally certain how they were exposed, but Michael believes it may have been while at work as a mail carrier.

It was months and months of uncertainty, while he continued to struggle to breathe well and even function normally.

Michael said he even sleeps sitting up for fear he won't be able to breathe.

“Last year I was a mail carrier and delivering my route every day," he said. “Everything just started going downhill for me. I felt like I was slowly dying.”

Michael eventually received a diagnosis for Amyloidosis on Dec. 18. It's a rare disorder than can affect organs like the liver, kidneys, and even heart.

Both Michael and Jenny believe COVID contributed to his diagnosis, or at least made him more susceptible to a disease that usually doesn't impact men in their 40s. Doctors are still making their determinations.

To help Michael now, he'll need chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. The VA is helping to cover the cost for treatment; Michael is a veteran.

However, the couple is expecting to have o travel to Nashville for Michael's care. Jenny said their health insurance ran out and after months of not working and Jenny herself on disability, they're worried about making ends meet during the pandemic.

Jenny said they already feared eviction once this year, and had their utilities shut off. She said they sold everything they could think of, even their wedding rings. Michael is currently on unpaid leave from work.

“He’s been taking care of me for so long and it’s my turn to take care of him," Jenny said of her husband.

A Go Fund Me account has already raised nearly $5,000 to further help with medical bills.

“There has been so many people who are contacting us and praying for us and we are just so grateful," Michael told Action News.

On top of the uncertainty and the money stress, the hardest part about this year for Jenny and Michael is not seeing their five kids, who are now grown up.

“One of my daughters I’ve got to hug once," said Michael. "Other than that not any of them in the past eight months.”

Michael is scheduled for a bone marrow biopsy next week. Jenny said if they can raise enough money, they will have Michael treated closer to home.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.