PORTAGE | This was supposed to be their summer.
Mario and Debbie Flores' yard was all set for a season of family and fun. Flowers were planted. The pool was ready for their three children, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Debbie was pretty much recovered from having her lung removed last year due to an infection.
Then came the morning of June 14. Mario, a union crane operator at ArcelorMittal's Harbor Works plant, had just come home from his midnight shift. He told Debbie he wanted to go out for breakfast, but he had terrible pain in his neck.
Instead of breakfast, Mario, 63, was rushed to a local hospital and then airlifted to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
He had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. He was on a ventilator and feeding tube, his throat paralyzed. He couldn't talk.
After undergoing surgery and having a shunt placed in his brain to remove fluid, Mario came home Sept. 4.
"Every day I thank God for waking him up," said Debbie, 59, who has become overwhelmed with the daily task of caring for her husband, paying household bills and exploring medical options to help in his recovery.
Mario's stroke has ended their life as they knew it, she said. Married nearly 38 years, the couple were planning on renewing their vows for their 40th anniversary.
Mario, a 1968 graduate of Lew Wallace High School, four-year veteran of the U.S. Army and former supervisor at Majestic Star Casino, struggles in his walker to move from the bedroom to the bathroom to the living area of the home. It takes the help of her son and sister-in-law, who have both moved in, to help her bathe him each day. They've tried to make accommodations for Mario's disability in the small bathroom, she said, but don't have the money to make it handicapped accessible.
He has been going to therapy in Hobart, but recently received a recommendation to continue his outpatient work at a Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago facility in either Crown Point or Hammond.
"I don't drive. I don't know how I am going to get him there," Debbie said, adding she quit driving after being involved in a car accident some years back.
The couple moved to Portage six years ago after living in Hessville for nearly 30 years.
It has been a struggle, too, to keep up with their bills.
"We have insurance, but you have big bills, large bills. We are people who pay our bills. Now we are paying our necessities," she said.
Family and friends are attempting to help the family by hosting a fundraising event Nov. 23 at VFW Post 5365 in Hobart.
"This is very hard for us. We are the type of people who help others out. We've never asked for help before," Debbie said.