Cough Link

ShariAnne and Daved Fischer's Web site asks, "Brother, can you spare a cyber dime?"

ShariAnne Fischer needs your help. Her husband, Daved, has end-stage emphysema and, if he doesn't have lung reduction surgery in the next several months, he may die. ShariAnne doesn't like to leave Daved alone for very long, so holding down a job is out of the question. But you won't find her collecting unemployment insurance, or panhandling on a local street corner. Instead, ShariAnne has started her own Web site, www.HelpMyHusband.com, where she cyberbegs for donations to pay Daved's medical bills.

Seated on the floor of her East Valley home, ShariAnne tells me all about the newest trend in soliciting handouts and how she intends to make it work for her. At one point, Daved joins us, trailing yards of rubber tubing from a respirator in the next room. Neither he nor his wife believes there's anything unusual in asking strangers to pay their bills, and they're not afraid to say so.

New Times: What are Daved's medical troubles?

ShariAnne Fischer: He has chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, which is also called end-stage emphysema.

NT: Was Daved a smoker?

Fischer: COPD is genetic, but yes, Daved was a smoker. I'm very honest about that. According to his old pulmonologist, his smoking had no effect on his health. His father died from this at age 47, as did his two aunts. The doctors don't know whether it's genetic or not, they're just focusing on fixing Daved. Without one of two available operations, he's going to die.

NT: So, Daved was a smoker, and he has emphysema, and now you're asking people to donate money to help fix him.

Fischer: We've already been chewed out about that. Sometimes people don't even ask to hear our whole story, they just start yelling. But when you go to the public for help, you have to expect that some people aren't going to be nice. But mostly people are very kind. Okay?

NT: Okay. I'm guessing you don't have health insurance.

Fischer: When Daved got sick four and a half years ago, he had just started with a new company. He wasn't on their medical insurance yet when he got sick. So we ended up on AHCCCS for two years until we got him on Medicare. But there are a lot of things not covered on Medicare, like his prescription medicines. We spend between $350 and $550 a month on those. We don't make that much. We're juggling our bills, which we don't like to do because it screws up our credit rating. Oh. I'm sorry. I just said "screw."

NT: It's okay. You can even say "fuck" if you want to. I won't be offended.

Fischer: But your tape recorder is going!

NT: It's really all right. Anyway, you were saying you don't have any money, yet you live in this really big house in this nice housing development.

Fischer: We don't own it. My parents own it, and we pay them $850 a month to rent it.

NT: And you don't work.

Fischer: By trade, I'm a schoolteacher. I have a master's in education; I'm not a stupid person. I was subbing last year, but I didn't go to work since last year when Daved was rushed to the emergency room and they told us he was going to die. I'm not comfortable leaving him alone, now that he's getting worse. I don't like to go around the corner without him.

NT: No wonder people are yelling at you. You've stopped working and you're asking for assistance from strangers.

Fischer: We're asking for assistance with Daved's medical needs, not our household bills. They're completely separate things. For food, we don't go to a food bank, we have people who help us. And I sit for hours and clip coupons. What we need help with is getting the operation for him and the medications after. As soon as I'm comfortable that he's not going to die the minute I go out of the house, I'm going back to work.

NT: So you're good at paying for things without money.

Fischer: Well, that's part of it. Okay? But would people help us if we said that? The pulmonologist told us that they won't even see Daved unless they know he has $26,000 for the operation.

NT: So you've set up this Web site where strangers can make donations.

Fischer: It started on the Today show. There was this woman on Today who had gotten herself into credit card debt, and she set up this Web site and people sent her money. They also sent her nasty e-mails, but she was able to raise $13,000 anyway. We looked at our lives and said, "Here's Daved, a man who is going to die without this operation." We thought about it and we decided that people are basically good, so we figured if we can get one dollar from 100,000 people, then no one is bearing the brunt of these bills and he gets to live.

NT: What is the difference between this and panhandling?

Fischer: This is cyberbegging. It's not like when you see people at the side of the road asking for handouts, and you make judgments about them without knowing any information. Our Web site tells you the whole story about why we need donations. We've provided legitimate facts to prove that this isn't a scam.

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