Golden Transcript – by Clarke Reader
The same radiation that saved Wheat Ridge resident and veteran Clarence “Ozzy” Osborne’s life when he was battling throat cancer in 2014 may well have contributed, he believes, to the myelodysplastic syndrome leukemia he is now battling.
But although Osborne, 59, is making progress in fighting the cancer, he and his wife Judy are in danger of losing their attached condo because of the high cost of medical bills and inability to work while dealing with the illness. Judy is also currently unable to work while she recovers from several surgeries.
“We’re waiting for my Supplemental Security Income to kick in, but that won’t happen until sometime in March,” Osborne said. “Every time the phone rings, I’m nervous about who could be calling. This is a very troublesome time, and it’s been a long, tough road.”
When Paige McDaniel, who attends Landmark Tabernacle Pentecostal with the Osbornes, heard about their struggles, she was inspired to try and help the family however she could.
“We’re looking for any help we can get in the community, because we haven’t had much luck with many veterans’ organizations,” said McDaniel, who became close friends with the Osbornes. “They need help with things like paying their mortgage and their Xcel bill.”
Osborne currently has health care courtesy of the Affordable Care Act. The pair’s rent is $1,100 per month, car payment is $460 a month, and their Xcel bill is $1,600, and very past due. McDaniel and others are trying to raise around $50,000 to help with the medical bills.
Clarence Osborne, born and raised in Detroit, came to Colorado in 1980 after he was honorably discharged from the Army. He enlisted in the Army when he was 17 years old in 1974 and went into the airborne infantry unit. He was sent to Vicenza, Italy, and re-enlisted in 1977, this time becoming a crew chief for Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopters (nicknamed “Huey”) for the rest of his time.
“I liked it a lot and learned a lot, but I was anxious to get out,” he remembered. “For just some boy out of Detroit, I was able to see a whole lot. I saw most of Europe by the time I was 21.”
After he left the military, Osborne worked in myriad jobs, including for an armored car company and private security firm. He also was an RTD driving instructor and, before retiring in summer 2016, a limo driver.
“Earlier that year I started feeling sick and was constantly out of energy, and on Sept. 29, I was diagnosed with leukemia,” he said. “I spent 30 days in the hospital receiving treatment, but the cancer resisted the chemo. At the end of my treatment period, the doctors gave me about six months to live.”
Osborne was enrolled in an experimental drug study program at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Hospital in Aurora, which he said appears to be helping. These says, he says he feels more positive about his prognosis.
But financial worries are increasing, and so McDaniel got involved with the Close to Home Campaign, a state nonprofit that works to end homelessness.
“Organizations across the Denver metro area all work together on this campaign to help those who are homeless or facing homelessness get out of the situation,” said Amy Pohl, a Close to Home Campaign partner. “Most people know someone who has some kind of experience with homelessness, and we’re trying to get communities active in dealing with the issue.”
Illness and the costs associated with treatment are common causes of homelessness, Pohl said, and she emphasized that it can happen to anyone.
That’s the fate McDaniel wants to prevent for the Osbornes.
“I’ve been so humbled by the support I’ve received,” Clarence Osborne said. “I’ve always tried to do good things for others, and it’s amazing to have people doing the same for me.”