Brian and Mary are homeless and live, at the moment, in a tent in some Orlando woods. They are also both mentally ill. They do the best they can in a society that often does not accept them, even before they even have the chance to talk. Mary is legally blind and Brian believes he is heir to the throne in Ireland. They are also two of the nicest people we have ever met.
The couple utilizes the services of Pathways Drop-In Center off of Orange Blossom Trail near I-4. Pathways provides a safe place for those in our community who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Hot meals are served, there are laundry and shower facilities, computers for the guests for keeping in contact with other family members, looking for employment or just enjoying a surf through web to see what they can find.
We had met Brian, Mary and Krystal over a year ago at Pathways. I wanted to photograph Krystal guarding the shopping cart, but Brian was very apprehensive about it. We did not know them well yet, but once we talked with him for awhile, things settled down and we were able to form a friendship.
It was not until a couple of months after our meeting that we learned about Krystal’s medical issues. Brian knew there was a growth on her belly, but he was not sure what it was – all he knew was that it was very worrisome to him. We talked about the possibility of having Krystal looked at but money was the big problem. After talking with Lt. Deanne Adams of Orange County Corrections, who works extensively with Pathways, it was decided that a joint effort would be more productive.
We made a call for help and found an organizer who said that once we were able to secure a veterinarian, she would solicit funds to help cover the charges. We ran into some problems, however, since once it became evident to Brian and Mary that a stranger may be taking Krystal, maybe even for an entire night, they backed down. They tried to convince themselves that the tumor was becoming smaller and that they were no longer concerned.
Actually, they just loved Krystal so much they could not imagine her having surgery or being away from the family for any period of time. They were not able to comprehend that Krystal’s life was likely hanging on the hopes of this surgery.
As time moved forward, so did the severity of Krystal’s health problem. Lt. Adams shared Krystal’s story with her family veterinarian at the Animal Medical Clinic on 1401 S. Bumby Ave. in Orlando. Lt. Adams first met with the Practice Manager at the clinic, Jamie White. Dr. Suarez owns the clinic and agreed to perform the necessary procedures at no charge to Brian or Mary.
Dr. Cassie Quest, DVM did Krystal’s actual surgery when several cancerous tumors were removed. The clinic kept Krystal overnight and provided the family with medications, dog food, dog treats and even a new “hot pink collar.” Lt. Adams said that the clinic and all involved “treated Krystal and Brian and Mary with dignity and respect.”
Lt. Adams, along with Correctional Officer Cindy Corrado and Lisa Piecora, collected enough money to get Brian, Mary and Krystal a motel room so they could all recover together in comfort.
Later, Lt. Adams went to the Hallmark store at Orange and Michigan to buy a stuffed dog that resembled Krystal as gift for Dr. Suarez. While Lt. Adams was explaining the gift to Hallmark employee Nancy Tait, the compassionate Ms. Tait pulled enough money out of her purse for an additional night at the motel for the recovering family.
We applaud the successful efforts of Dr. Suarez, Dr. Quest, Lt. Adams and all that the others that helped make this happen. We are also proud of Brian and Mary for having the courage and the faith to trust our community with their beloved Krystal.