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Illness, homelessness plague family of five

Chanel Pakele-Fereti wants to lift the spirits of her three sons

By Pat Gee

LAST UPDATED: 2:19 p.m. HST, Dec 4, 2012

Chanel Pakele-Fereti hopes to regain the use of her legs, badly blistered from a reaction to pain medication.

But even more, she would like a place her family can call home. She, her husband and their three boys have been homeless for most of the past year.

Since August, Pakele-Fereti has been in the hospital with burning sores on her legs. She has lost almost all of the vision in her left eye as result of diabetes and high blood pressure, and she receives dialysis three times a week.

The couple separated for a while over marital and family problems, but have reunited.

However, their car was repossessed.

"I really want my kids to have a good Christmas this year because of everything they went through," Pakele-Fereti said in applying for the Adopt-A-Family program under Helping Hands Hawaii. "I feel overwhelmed and bad for my kids."

The Star-Advertiser's annual Good Neighbor Fund helps this program bring some holiday cheer to families who have fallen on hard times.

Readers may adopt a family featured in our weekly GNF story with cash donations or gifts. Or they may contribute to the general fund for all families, and drop off material goods at the Helping Hands' Community Clearinghouse. For details, see the information box.

"If I could have just one wish, it would be not so much to walk — I can deal with that — it would be to just to have a place of our own to go home to, so my kids have some place to say that that's theirs," she said in tears during an interview. "I'm pretty discouraged. (The kids) are talking about Christmas, but more so talking like, ‘We don't have the money to do things.' … I can hear it in their voices. They tell me things like, ‘Ho, Mom, we cannot do this, we cannot do that.'"

Her husband and the boys — ages 16, 12 and 1 — are living with his sister, but it's crowded and temporary.

"We're trying to find a place, but it's like all doors are closing on us," Pakele-Fereti said.

Applications for transitional or public housing so far have gone nowhere.

"We wait. We wait. We wait," she said. "There's no answers. More stress."

Their year of misery began with her second son contracting an infection and spending a few weeks in the hospital.

Then came the premature birth of her son, who had a hole in his heart. A year old in December, her baby is fine now but could have some developmental delays, she said.

When she and her husband were separated, Pakele-Fereti and the children were forced to live in their car. Sleeping on the car seats, cradling her baby, led to terrible back pain. When she finally took medication for it, she had a severe reaction and developed blisters on her legs two days later.

On the third day, Pakele-Fereti was unable to walk and ended up in the hospital, diagnosed with bilateral kidney failure and vasculitis — inflammation of the blood vessels. She has no idea when she will be able to regain the use of her legs.

"I'm counting down every minute," she said.

Whenever she moves her legs, "it feels like it's burning," she added.

"One good thing that happened was that when I got sick, my husband came to my side and hasn't left," she said. "He really helps me and takes care of the kids."

Unfortunately, he had to stop working as a mover to help care for the children, but he recently went back to work, she said.

"My children are thankful that we are no longer staying in a car," she said. "I wish I was able to give them gifts this year, but all of the money goes to pay for basic needs."

The older boys would like to have books, shoes, clothes or sports equipment; her baby needs diapers, a stroller or car seat and a playpen. Her husband could use some clothes or any fitness equipment and Pakele-Fereti would enjoy a massage or a few hours at a spa.

"I am so thankful for any help that my family and I receive," she said. "We have grown closer as a family because of everything that we've gone through this year and I hope that things will only get better."

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