After her husband climbed a communications tower and threatened to commit suicide in April, Michelle Williams-Boal said she is doing all that she can to keep her family of six from poverty with the little income she receives from the state.
It is not easy for Boal, who lost a major source of income when her husband could no longer work because he is receiving treatment.
Boal, like so many families struggling in Payson with various dire situations, relies on the kindness of her church and donations to get by.
Last month alone, the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank provided 40-pound food boxes to 600 families and the demand from month to month has remained steady since September.
Food bank manager Wayne Parent said over last year, they are seeing at least 33 percent more families in need of food assistance.
While demand has gone up, donations have not followed and Parent has had to rely on the Payson Area Food Drive to get through the month.
In November, a group of city leaders gathered and created the PAF drive to raise 50,000 pounds of food and $20,000 to benefit Rim Country food banks. So far, the local community has donated more than 30,000 pounds of food.
On Tuesday, Parent picked up two truckloads worth of donated food so he could meet increased demand.
Without the PAF drive, Parent said he would have had to cut back on the amount of food he was giving out. St Vincent hands out food every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine.
For Boal, 39, life has not been easy the last few years. Although she is grateful for her six children, ranging in age from 18 to 2, she cannot work or leave the home often as her 4-year-old son, Zane, requires constant attention because he could die at any time if he falls asleep without a ventilator.
Boal explained that when Zane was 2 he developed a runny nose. After bringing him to a hospital, the situation grew serious when Zane’s oxygen levels dropped.
Doctors discovered Zane had developed congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS) or primary alveolar hypoventilation, a respiratory disorder. Persons afflicted with CCHS suffer from respiratory arrest during sleep, which can be fatal if not monitored regularly.
Boal said most children are born with the disorder and often suffer sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) because of it. It is rare that a child would develop the condition later in life, she said.
“It is a miracle,” she said that Zane is alive. “I refused to give up on him.”
Doctors placed a tracheotomy in Zane’s throat and it must be attached to a ventilator every time he goes to sleep. If Boal fails to hook up the machine, the moment Zane closes his eyes, he could die in his sleep in a matter of minutes because his brain forgets to tell him to breathe on his own.
Furthermore, since Zane is vulnerable to infections with a tracheotomy (trach) in his throat, he cannot go outside often and regularly spends hours in a chair rocking. The rocking motion appears to sooth him, Boal said; however, Boal cannot afford a rocking chair, so he is forced to rock on a stationary chair.
Unable to work, Boal is constantly at Zane’s side clearing his trach and attending to his needs. She gets a momentary break a few times a week when a nurse visits to take over watching Zane.
Besides having CCHS, Zane is normal in every other way, Boal said.
Exasperating the situation, Boal’s husband, Camn Boal, 41, is living outside of the family’s rental home because he is receiving treatment for mental illness.
Most Payson residents remember reading about a suicidal man who climbed a communication tower in early June. That man is Boal’s husband, Camn.
After a three-hour standoff with police, Camn finally came down, but managed to shatter his ankle when he jumped the last several feet off the tower.
Camn said he has no memories from the day he climbed the tower, but feels extreme remorse for his actions.
“I blame nobody but myself,” he said.
Boal believes Camn was driven to attempt suicide after the family learned a property owner would not let them live in a rental home.
Finding a home has always been an issue for the large family who is on a limited income (Boal’s combined cash income is $1,066 a month) and regularly receives visits from paramedics due to Zane’s condition.
In addition, Camn’s criminal record is an issue with most property owners.
On the day of the tower climb, the Boals had just learned a rental for the family had fallen through after the landlord got cold feet due to the family’s size.
Boal said because Camn has a “low tolerance for stress” he could not handle the devastating news.
Camn suffers from posttraumatic stress and has bipolar disorder.
Camn believes his mental problems started as a teen when a number of close friends died, some right in front of him. Unable to deal with the pain, Camn self medicated with substances. Over the years, problems accumulated and Camn found himself making one bad decision after another.
Now with a second chance to get better after the suicide attempt, Camn said he wants a future for himself and his family.
“My family is my responsibility,” he said. “I have failed my family.”
Camn hopes to start his own business and eventually support his family like he used to when he ran a water company in Chino Valley.
For now, with Camn living away, Boal’s oldest children, age 18 and 16; act as second parents to the younger children.
“He probably has responsibilities he shouldn’t have,” Boal said of her oldest son.
“He doesn’t get to live the normal teenage life.”
The children rarely go out or eat out with friends because Boal cannot afford to have them away. The teens only eat out when someone gives them a gift card, she said.
Although both Camn and Boal admit they are “scared to death of the future,” they are taking it one day at a time.
Even with so much stacked against her, a husband suffering from mental illness, a son with a life-threatening illness and without a permanent home for her six children to live, Boal is optimistic for the future and grateful for the help she receives.
“It could be worse,” she said.
With the help of the community and their church, Boal believes the family will survive and thrive.
“My attitude is you have to put pride aside and ask for help,” she said.