Pearl City resident Sheri-Ann Cabinatan led an active lifestyle, running and lifting weights, before falling ill in October 2019.
She suffered a persistent cough, shortness of breath and fainting spells. Since then, Cabinatan has undergone a multitude of tests for her heart and lungs. Doctors are still trying to figure out what’s wrong, she said.
Cabinatan, 40, uses a wheelchair to help with mobility, and her husband, Ryan, left his full-time job as a warehouse worker at Beachside Lighting in January to be her caregiver.
“I could no longer do things for myself and for my kids. I could no longer prepare meals and cook for them,” said the stay-at-home mother, adding she has difficulty walking for an extended period of time and showering on her own. “I can’t sit up and talk story without feeling out of breath.”
Helping Hands Hawaii partners with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and First Hawaiian Bank for the annual Good Neighbor Fund campaign to help families in need during the holiday season. The campaign assists the agency’s various programs that include the Adopt A Family Program.
The Cabinatan family is among the more than 500 families seeking help through the charitable organization. Though they receive public assistance to help with food and necessities, the family struggles to pay utility bills and the monthly rent on their two-bedroom apartment.
“It’s been a challenge,” said Ryan Cabinatan.
The COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the recent death of a relative has deeply affected their 12- year-old son, Isaiah, and 6-year-old daughter, Rebekah. Sheri-Ann Cabinatan said the children, who are distance-learning at home, miss interacting with friends at school and are grieving the loss of their uncle, who died in August from complications of cardiomyopathy and diabetes.
Isaiah was a straight-A student but is now flunking his classes, and Rebekah has separation anxiety and is struggling emotionally following their uncle’s death. “She wants him back,” her mother said.
To help lift their spirits, the Cabinatans are hoping to be able to provide Isaiah with some of the things on his holiday wish list, which include anything relating to Marvel Comics and science experiment kits. His sister loves unicorns and arts and crafts, especially painting.
Sheri-Ann Cabinatan said she finds it uncomfortable to ask for help because she feels fortunate to have a place to stay and is often helping people who can’t buy food and need shelter.
“I may not be able to afford my bills, but I’m at least not on the street,” she said.
It was a friend who encouraged her to file an application to seek assistance from Helping Hands Hawaii. “I really didn’t want to do it,” Cabinatan said. “My best friend, she brought a paper to me (and said), ‘You have to sign it. You need help.’”
She asked for clothes for all four family members, school supplies for both children, kitchenware and assistance with their monthly bills.
Her husband said: “Making ends meet, it’s very difficult.”