Bad times become worse Disabled Jersey City woman struggles financially while trying to keep dog alive

After losing her job at the Port Authority while recovering from surgery and having to sell her house because she was unable to keep up with mortgage payments, 55-year-old Mary Ann Bracero now faces a knew hardship after her 9-year-old Chihuahua-Lhasa Apso mix named “Angie” was diagnosed with cancer over a year ago.

After working for 10 years as a secretary for the Port Authority, both in Journal Square and in the World Trade Center, the downtown Jersey City native was terminated after being on medical leave for two surgeries she received due to her being diagnosed with Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.

After going to her union for support, she was allegedly presented with an option to either agree to her termination and receive two months pay upfront or go to a medical determination hearing.

According to Bracero, after the hearing she was eventually terminated for not being able to perform her duties fully in her position as secretary. Bracero said that before the decision was made she had tried to be transferred to a position that would require less use of her hands. However, she was unsuccessful because a supervisor from the personnel department wanted her to return to work before her recovery process was complete.

In addition to being unable to properly use her wrists, Bracero also suffers from a herniated disc in her neck and back, sciatica, heel spurs in both feet, a peripheral vascular disease which causes painful circulation problems in her legs, and Fibromyalgia, an illness characterized by chronic pain caused by widespread musculoskeletal stiffness.

In addition to her own troubles, Bracero’s husband, a former truck driver who did not want his name in the article, also suffers from a herniated disc in his neck and back and has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, which Bracero refused to comment on.

Due to their illnesses, neither Bracero nor her husband, who live in a moderate-income apartment on River Drive South, are able to work and are subsequently forced to live off social security and disability for the rest of their lives.Angie’s cancer Outside of her husband and her father, who lives in Bayonne and suffers from a chronic illness, Bracero’s only sense of family are her three pets, “Lucy Lolita,” a 5-year-old Chihuahua, “Spike” an 18-year-old Cockatiel, and Angie.

“They’re everything to me, they’re my babies,” said Bracero. “It kills me to see [Angie] like this. When she was young she’d run up and down. She can’t even move around anymore without me helping her.”

A year and half ago, Angie was diagnosed with Neuro Fibro Sarcoma. Since then, the cancer, which is located in her pelvis, has eaten away at the muscle mass in her left leg to the point where she can no longer use it. As a result, Angie’s right leg, which had been overcompensating to support the body’s weight, has succumbed to orthopedic problems involving her knee, which according to the veterinarian, is coming out of the socket.

After taking Angie to Veterinarian Philip Frezzo several times after the dog’s diagnosis, Bracero decided not to attempt chemotherapy, which could have negative consequences for a dog at Angie’s age. Currently, Angie is taking Deramaxx to relieve any pain caused by the cancer and has had her right leg wrapped to provide support.

Angie is no longer able to use either leg and requires constant assistance and supervision from Bracero, who must hold up the lower half of Angie’s body in order for the dog to be able to go to the bathroom. Bracero hopes in the near future to be able to provide Angie with a rear-wheelchair made for dogs so that she can move around on her own.

“I can’t put into words how much Angie means to me,” said Bracero. “She’s the daughter I never had and to watch her in this state, it tears out my insides. All I want to do is to be able to help her and give her whatever I can at this stage in her life.”

Bracero, who has already had to sell furniture and clothing items in order to pay her bills, cannot afford to buy Angie the dog wheelchair, which can cost between $200 and $300.

Having accepted her own circumstances, Bracero is hoping that her lack of financial security will not have a negative impact on those who she loves most. If she has to, the 55-year-old disabled women said she would sell another piece of furniture in order to purchase the wheelchair for her dog. Before that becomes necessary however, Bracero hopes that animal lovers in the area who can empathize with her situation will help her by making a donation to her veterinarian, Dr. Philip Frezzo, who practices out of the Animal Clinic of Bayonne at 926 Broadway, to pay for the wheelchair and future medical bills.

After learning of the Bracero’s situation, Robin Murphy of the animal rescue organization Companion Animal Placement, which is based out of Hoboken, and the organization’s president, Wendy Neu, said they would assist Bracero in obtaining a rear wheelchair for Angie and with veterinarian bills that might arise in the future. Michael Mullins can be reached at mmullins@hudsonreporter.com.

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