Need to Live Free; No Nursing Home!

(Editors note: I believe the essence of “tribe” is an attitude of all for one, and one for all. In that spirit, over the last year or so I’ve allowed tribe members in need to promote their go-fund-me campaigns here. Without exception, you have responded magnificently and with great generosity! I try not to overdue it and these have all been people I know and I am sure they are asking for help only as a last resort. Today we are going to meet Debra Dickinson; if you’ve watched any of my videos, you’ve seen her regularly because she is one of my favorite people! I know for a fact her very hard work to make it on her own and how hard it is for her to ask for help. But due to no fault of her own, she finally must ask for help. I hope you all respond from your heart and give what is comfortable for you.) 

(Updated to add the link to Debra’s GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/nonursinghomefordebra)

https://www.gofundme.com/nonursinghomefordebra

I’m Debra Dickinson and I’ve been a VanDweller since 2014. I joined Bob Wells’ camp in his camp in 2015 when I started full-time on the road. I immediately fell in love with the vandwelling community and enjoy sharing that love by helping others through my YouTube Channel (Debra Dickinson) and blog (TBIVanGirl).

I live with the effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), but am able to thrive while living in nature with my two dogs. This simple, quiet, stress-free lifestyle dramatically reduces my symptoms which, in turn, has apparently stalled the growth of scar tissue in my brain. At some point, the scar tissue and my symptoms will presumably progress to the point that I will need to live in a nursing home. And that, my friends, is why Bob has asked me to write this blog post: to help me stay free for as long as possible.

I am asking for your help, through a GoFundMe Campaign (here), to maintain a stress-free lifestyle, in my van and in nature. In order to maintain this lifestyle, my van needs repairs and improvements.

HERE IS MY STORY

Almost two decades ago, I was beaten by a foster son. The traumatic brain injury that I sustained caused me to be in a coma. As a result of my injuries, I was hospitalized and spent several months in rehab. I was able to rebuild my life though, and had a successful career and even purchased a home. I also remarried. I was living the American Dream! And then seizures started…

The seizures are NOT epileptic in nature which means they do not affect my ability to drive. They are not that kind and do not have sudden onset. It took doctors almost 2 years to identify the problem. It turns out that scar tissue was building up on my brain from the original injury. I had brain surgery to remove what scar tissue they could. It was a one-time shot. Luckily, it worked, but through it all I lost my career, my home and my husband.

I rebuilt my life once again and even earned my certification to teach. I taught junior high science and I loved it! But the stress was too much and the scar tissue began to grow again. As the scar tissue accumulated, I was determined to remain independent. I refused disability, even though my doctors and social workers advised me that I should no longer try to work. However, this time, it was more and more challenging to be successful at jobs. I tried various odd jobs and even moved to small town USA to work in a State Park. My hope was to stay there until I retired. It was, after all, a small, quiet town and the State Park put me near my healing place: Mother Nature.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last. My health began to decline once again and my doctors were clear: nothing else could be done. It was 2015 and with a diagnosis of Impact-induced Hippocampal Sclerosis (HS) that produced Mesial temporal sclerosis, my doctors told me to get my affairs in order, assign a legal guardian and trustee, and basically just wait it out. I was devastated.

No longer able to work, I tried staying with family and friends but the TVs, the noise and the city, all combined, took a toll on me and was creating multiple seizures. In an effort to get my seizures under control I started staying at State Parks in a tent. I was on several waiting lists for subsidized housing, but the wait (depending on location) ranged from 2-5 years. After almost 2 months of tent camping, I decided it was time to make a change: my disability kicked in and I bought my cargo van.

Life as a VanDweller, with my furbabies, has been healing for me.  At the very least, my seizures are far less frequent and I can think and process when I am in the peace and quiet of my van and out in nature. The simplicity has allowed me to remain independent for over a year now because it is a lifestyle I can maintain.

With nowhere else to go, to sustain my health after this, my next step will be assisted living or long term care. I am trying desperately to stall that outcome for as long as I absolutely can. I honestly don’t think I will survive being locked up in 4 walls. I hope I don’t have to find out.

WHY I’M ASKING FOR HELP

Although I have been fortunate to experience a reduction in my symptoms this past year, I am currently unable to hold a job. After expenses, such as insurance, etc., I live on about $650/mo in Social Security Disability payments. I paid off all my medical bills and tried to save my house, which means that I am debt-free, but it also exhausted all of my savings. Because so many people have been so good to me through all of this, it is devastating for me to ask, but in short, I now need help to keep my van livable and dependable.

HOW YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS WILL BE USED

  • Vehicle Repairs – $1500 (ball joints, rear seal leak, brakes & windshield) To have a dependable van, travel with good weather, go to the back country to be in quiet and nature, and heal.
  • Rooftop Solar System – $1250 (solar panels, controller and 2 batteries) My current 100w suitcase solar system is inadequate. Furthermore, it’s difficult for me to deploy and put away, especially if in a hurried or confused state.
  • Cabinets – $200 Organization is key for me to keep my stress low and symptoms at bay. A designated place for everything will help keep my van’s interior uncluttered, and there won’t be the danger of forgetting to bungee something down.
  • Small Fridge – $550 Eating fresh healthy foods is key to good health and prolonged independence.
  • Emergency Fund – $2000 This will be temporary seed money while I build a savings fund for future needs.
  • GoFundMe Donation Fees – appx. $500 (7.9% + 30 cents/donation) This is the cost of running a campaign on GoFundMe.

MY COMMITMENT TO YOU

I will not give up. I am always trying to find jobs I can do. For example, in Quartzsite recently I went to at least 50 vendors. The jobs were too complicated or noisy for me, but I tried. I will find something I can do. I just know it. I just need more time!

A friend helped me start a YouTube channel and I hope it will be a source of supplemental income for me. I hope to be completely independent and off disability some day. We’ll see. I’m trying to be realistic. The doctors say no, but I haven’t given up hope. In 2015, when they told me to get my affairs in order, they also told me that I might see 2016 but would probably not be aware of it. Here it is 2017 and I’m still going!

If you give me this extra time out here that I am asking for, I will keep working to find ways to become self-sustaining. I will keep you updated on that progress through my videos and my blog for as long as I am able. I will also show all of my expenditures on my website on a tab labeled (My GoFundMe). You will be able to see every penny accounted for.

WITH JOY AND LOVE

If you are willing, please consider giving to this campaign with joy and love. If you are unable to contribute financially, please send your joy and love through prayers. As always, it a great life out here. I’ll see you down the road!

Debra’s GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/nonursinghomefordebra

Be sure and check out my YouTube Channel here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAj7O3LCDbkIR54hAn6Zz7A

Thanks for supporting this site by using these links to Amazon. I’ll make a small percentage on your purchase and it won’t cost you anything, even if you buy something different.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP AMAZON.COM

Bob
About

I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

Posted in Tribe
57 comments on “Need to Live Free; No Nursing Home!
  1. Ron says:

    The correct link to Debra’s GoFundMe is https://gofundme.com/nonursinghomefordebra

    Good luck Debra!

    • Thank you, Ron! I’m not sure what happened to the link in the article (consider the source – me!), but I’m sure Bob will correct it ASAP. And I appreciate the well wishes.

    • Thank you, Ron! I’m not sure what happened to the link in the article (consider the source – me!), but I’m sure Bob will correct it asap. I appreciate the well wishes too. Thanks again!

  2. Jenn says:

    This gave me goosebumps and I truly wish I could contribute. I hope I can cross paths with you one day and that you continue to heal.

  3. Omar says:

    Hello Bob,

    Great work. Can we please get a double confirmation from you for Debra’s fund me web link.

    Thanks,
    Omar

  4. Donation complete. I have a great deal of empathy for Debra.

    • This means a lot to me Calvin. Thank you! I appreciate too your comment on my video, “4 Mile Desert Rescue Hike” and I will reply to your PM shortly. Have a blessed day and thanks again!

  5. Kevin says:

    Hope you get all the positive YouTube and internet love sponsorship. Keep making videos. Great and clear story of why you need to be supported. One positive suggestion — please consider being a model for community illness self help. Bet if you reach out to churches and lions clubs and other community groups as a model for doing it on your own, regardless of challenge, you will be supported. A few presentations and traveling to woman shelters and such will get you a lot of good exposure and press. Good luck.

    • Thank you Kevin. I love those words, “positive YouTube and internet love sponsorship”. Sometimes people underestimate the positive aspects of social media support. I do not. I suppose because that connection was so vital to me throughout months of being bedridden and house-bound during my TBI rehab. It was a connection to many people that got me through those difficult times. Thanks too for the encouragement around my videos! I have fun with them and am hopeful I can maintain the channel for a long time. I also like your idea about helping in communities. I’m not sure how to do that as a nomad, but will definitely put it on my radar. I might start by contacting the social workers and rehab center that helped me recover. Thank you!

  6. Coffee Tim says:

    Good article Debra.
    While reading about your needs it occurred to me that perhaps some Nomad reading this might be able to assist you with vehicle repairs, solar set up, refrigerator, or other items on your list.
    For those short of cash it is a good way to help you with donations of the things you need.

    Best wishes to you
    Tim

    • Thank you Coffee Tim! A knoweldgeable nomad friend has offered to help me with the solar set up and installation. He is the one that led the way on my solenoid install that Bob featured in one of his videos. So I know anything he does will be done right, and his offer is saving a ton in labor costs! I am so blessed by so many people (!) and this community is amazing in the way we all step up to take care of each other. So who knows? Thanks for thinking outside the box. The video that will go live on my YT channel tomorrow is titled, “The Road Provides.” That is so true!

  7. Cindy says:

    So sorry Debra you have all this going on. Your a wonderful and positive person. I love your videos. I will donate to help you stay on the road. God Bless you and your little dogs. Cindy C

    • Thank you so much Cindy! This was very difficult for me to go public with and I am so encouraged this morning from all the support. Thank you too for thinking of my furbabies in your well wishes. They have been with me through each step of all this (11 and 14 yo) and they mean the world to me. Truly, thank you for everything! db&n

      • Lynn says:

        Weren’t you public with this two years ago under “YouCaring” crowd funding? I am sorry for your difficulties…best wishes and maybe we will meet next January.

        • It would be great to meet you Lynn! I will look forward to that. My friend Tracy setup a YouCaring account – mostly for friends & family to help me finish paying off the last few medical bills. I had already paid off $32K on my own by cashing in my retirement accounts and savings. Some have told me that I should never have cashed all that in but at least I didn’t file bankruptcy over it and all the bills got paid. That was very important to me. I hope this info helps. Thanks!

  8. Bob, thank you for helping Debra raise awareness about this campaign. I know how hard she tries to be self-sufficient, and how difficult it was for her to ask for help. Your support in this campaign is wonderful.

    Debra, you are an inspiration to so many people, both those on the road and those still st home. Thank you for your continuing positive examples. I hope this campaign exceeds your needs and buys you the time that you need to become more self-sufficient on the road.

    • Thank you, Robert. You humble me. My goal for 2017 is to stay independent and self-sufficient, and you have encouraged me every step of the way to not give up on that dream. Your friendship has helped me immensely in many ways, and is just one of the many reasons I am able to be independent today. Thank you for your donation and for all you have contributed to my life. You are a blessing my friend. Love, db&n

  9. Mike Reamer says:

    Go TRIBE! Nothing touches a persons soul more than helping others, I’m happy to help! You know, I read a lot of articles on the benefits of cannabis, CBD oil, etc. It is known to help with seizures. I’m just wondering if you have investigate/tried this?

    Good luck,

    MikeR

    • Hi Mike! Thank you SO much for all you have done. Wow, what a roller coaster ride, right? I will send you an email soon.

      I have not checked in to it but I have heard that before. Thanks for the info!

      I guess I should stress here too that my “seizures” are not the epileptic kind. They have a long name I can’t remember but they don’t affect driving and they don’t have suuden onset. I should probably find a different word to use because people sometimes worry about me driving. There are over 100 different kinds of seizures. I did not know that. It would be interesting to see if cannabis helps with mine. Thanks again!

      • Scott Browne (NEXT LIFE on the forum) says:

        I have panic attacks that are physically manifested. I’m part of a minority of 9% of people that have the physically manifested type. I’m fully awake when I’m flopping and kicking on the ground or floor. When people ask me what they are like I tell them that they are grandmaul seizure like. So, you could use the term “seizure-like”.

  10. I’m cheering for you, Debra! You are brave, determined and free, listening to your own truth. What’s remarkable is that when you went against your own wisdom, your illness flared, and when you follow your heart, you improve.
    What I’ve learned from my friend with MS, and wise people like yourself is DO NOT LET ‘professionals’ limit you or define what you are capable of!
    Sail on, sailor. Love your dogs!

    • Thank you for understanding all that Patrise and for sharing your kindness with me! And thanks for the shout out to my furbabies! I send your friend with MS best wishes and love. What a blessing you must be to her! Yes, KOKO (keep on keeping on) no matter what! Thanks again. Love, db&n

  11. Ed Peterson says:

    Debra,

    I believe I have met you and Bob certainly knows who I am. I am down on quartzsite now. I am look to sell part of my solar set-up and some other things as I’m downsizing. If you meet your goal, which I’m sure you will, I would offer you a great deal( more then 50% off retail) on some top of the line equipment.

    I have (2) Kyocera 140 watt panels;
    (1) Blue sky Solar Boost 30001 MPPT controller;
    (2) 100ah Lifeline AGM batteries

    Also, have a 45qt Whynter 12V refrigerator ($560 0n Amazon) that I would offer a great deal on.

    Best of luck to you and I if I can help you save some money, let me or Bob know. Thanks.

    • Thanks again for this offer Ed and for contacting me through Bob. I sure wish i had not already been 2 states away! My friend Brian (that did my solenoid) will help me get the best deal possible here in TX. He said he has some tricks up his sleeve. Lol. Thanks again!

  12. Allanb says:

    Best wishes Debra, and may the road rise up to meet you

  13. patricia says:

    I don’t know you and I don’t have much extra money but every little bit helps so I sent you what I could. I respect you and your story and someday, who knows, I might need help and maybe someone will help me too.
    I wish you good health and happiness.

    • This is the sweetest Patricia! Thank you for your loving and thoughtful words. My intent is to always pay it forward. I send you best wishes for health and happiness too. Thanks again!

  14. Cecilia says:

    Debra, Is there a way to send you a donation outside of GoFundMe? Their fees are steep and I want you to keep every dollar. If you have a PO Box, I could send a check. With all of your issues, I am in awe that you are so upbeat. I hope you have many more months of being free.

    • Thank you Cecilia! This is so kind of you! I’ve been getting a lot of hate mail about my campaign so I’m a bit nervous about giving out my PO Box publicly. Let me think on it and see what I can do. Okay? Thanks again! Big hugZ, d

    • Hello Cecilia, I hope this reaches you. My friends helped me create a public email addy. Please email me at: tbivangirl@gmail.com. I’ll be happy to send you my mailing address. Thanks again! And all the best to you.
      Love and blessings,
      Debra
      Nonni and Bentley

      • Michele says:

        Hi, Debra! I also sent you an email as I would like to donate to you directly vs go fund me, if you are comfortable with that of course. Much love

  15. Bill says:

    I too am disabled so cannot afford a donation. But I can give you some advice. First $2000 for a solar system on your van is extremely high. Look harder on that, a place in Corona Ca. Is selling panels at about 50 cents a watt. A mppt charger by Eco Worthy is about a hundred. Do more research on the solar. Second and more important is your social security is wrong. If you worked enough quarters the minimum social security is much higher than what you list. If you don’t have enough quarters worked to fully qualify for social security then you need to be a resident of a state that has SSI, State Security Income. It will add to the social security to bring you up to the minimum. As for medical if you are at the minimum social security then you qualify for Medicaid and your medical expenses are mere pennies of a copay for drugs and care. Just a few tips. Best of luck and hope to meet you on the road.

    • Jimbo says:

      She states that after expenses she lives on about $650 of what is left over from Social Security Disability. So she receives more than the $650 from SS, and after she pays her bills that is what is left. So she is making more than $650 a month.
      She has $650 to play with.

      • Bill says:

        Ok my bad I misread the amount. Thanks for the correction.

        • Hi Bill, thank you for taking the time to get all of that information to me! My friends Cindy and Brian are going to help me with the solar. He did my solenoid installation ans I know he’s a stickler for doing the reaearch and gerting the best part at the best price. He’ll keep me straight! LOL. Thanks again! I appreciate you looking out for me.

      • Thanks Jimbo for replying to Bill. I’ve been on the road and didn’t see his concern until now. I appreciate it!

  16. Skip says:

    Debora,
    I’m going to reread your story really well tomorrow and make a donation then. I have had an epileptic condition for most of my life and up until a few years ago it was controlled with drugs. After a few car accidents I had to cancel my plans of living out in the middle of nowhere in a travel trailer. I’m now getting around on city buses. It’s the most “unnomadic” lifestyle. Several neurologists have suggested brain surgery to eliminate the seizures. I have postponed going through with it since it isn’t a life threatening condition and the idea of getting some sort of super bug and a neurosurgeon that’s having a bad day is scary. Your experience has given me some more courage to get it done.
    Skip

  17. Steve says:

    Please don’t take anything in my following remarks to be mean or hating in anyway. I realize that Debra is in a bad situation with her health and she says that her days are more or less short numbered for living the mobile life.

    But as far as me personally, if I had $650 left over after paying all my bills and was debt free I would be on the road right now and would live pretty well indeed. But unfortunately $650 is what I have BEFORE my bills would be paid and even with extreme frugality that would not be possible I don’t think for anyone to make it in the nomadic van lifestyle. Please prove me wrong on that.

    • Hi Steve, Bob just uploaded a video on his YT channel that you will find hopeful and inspiring. I know I did! She lives on $250/m! For what it’s worth, I don’t use all my $$. Each month I set some back because there has to be an emergency fund. But then something will happen – as it always does. Such as a blow out or a sick dog etc. So I actually “live” on less. I hope that makes sense and I hope this helps. Best wishes to you, db&n

      • Steve says:

        Debra I watched both videos and from what I heard from Lisa in the videos she is actually flipping vans (buying and fixing them up and reselling for a profit) So she is making much more than the $250 a month to live on. I would love to see a video on her in the process of doing that. Very interesting.

        • Jack says:

          Sorry Debra, this smells like a scam. In your sob story, you never mention cities or states — strange. A certified teacher would be entitled to a hefty disability pension, 50% of salary or more in many states. And then you go after a small SSI??? No chapter 7 bankruptcy where retirement funds are exempt from creditors including medical?? But then you ask strangers for money?? Your writing is too smooth and salesmanship like,to have any credibility. I suspect you and others are sharing in the profits of this fake story.

      • Liz says:

        Debra, I am rooting for you! I was glad to see you reached your goal in a very short time — people are wonderfully generous. After reading that you are having a hard time living on $650/month after the basic bills, it was a wake-up call. I have heard so many times that a vehicle dweller can “live like a king” on $500/month. I realize everyone has different expenses, but it seems a more critical look at this is needed, because many of us who are thinking of trying this lifestyle base it on a rosier picture. I suppose the only way to plan this out realistically is to start with several thousand dollars set aside as your emergency fund from the get-go, and then live extremely frugally, doing your own repairs as much as possible to avoid towing and mechanic’s costs. All the best to you and your sweet pups!

  18. Carol Ellis says:

    Hi Debra,
    I hope all is ok.
    I ‘ve been working on a web site again. I have found the perfect yarn for you and I will have some things done in the next week or so.
    Don’t let the hate mail get you down. The people who write that garbage are just jealous. They aren’t worth your time or stress.
    Give the furkids a hug.
    Be safe and koko.😊
    Carol

  19. Gigi says:

    Debra, I just sent you a little donation. I’ve been here on the forum since last year and stumbled upon your blog and you-tube channel during this years RTR. I hope to make it to next year’s as I won’t be launching until this spring or summer. Deep peace to you and hope you get to life this lifestyle as long as you breathe! Hope to “see you on the road!” <3

  20. Chip says:

    Miss Debra, Very sorry to hear about your situation. I can understand. I’ve been thru several issues w/ brain tumor, radiation, experimental meds, 3 TIA’s; open heart surgery… & more. Don’t know If my issues problems are worse, better or equal. I tell my doc’s, “I’m hard to kill”- ha. I need some “brain” help- ideas, suggestions, or ways; from you or Bob. I’m looking @ RTR; w/ many questions unanswered. Thank you & God bless, Chip~

  21. K Butler says:

    My respect for Bob continues to grow! He is a man of his word, a true friend. I hav4 never met any of you folks, probably never will. What stands out, is the kindness, true friendships. Debra, go, enjoy life, make this fun, relaxing, adventurous, eat good, rest and sleep well, take care of you, look at the stars, sunrises and sunsets. Your spirit is good! I would like to see what ever it takes, for your van to be homey, easy to get around in it, relaxing, safe, and needed work done. I think you are on the right track w/a good life for yourself.

  22. Allan Eaton says:

    Debra, thank you so much for opening your heart and telling everyone your story. You have been through a lot and have obviously worked hard at caring for yourself. It’s a terrible thing that the injuries have cost you so much of your life and family. But now you have a new family and I think one, from what I’ve seen in my short experience with them, loves you and supports your efforts to be self sufficient. I’m happy to help out in any way that I can.

    Blessings,
    Allan

  23. BJ says:

    Glad to see you made your goal. Involving the haters – think of it in nature’s terms – you can not control it – make it “run like water off of a Ducks back” — focus on the good and keep your path to happiness —- your path.

  24. Turtlelady says:

    Your spirit and choices are refreshing. In another forum we helped a friend by donating through a PayPal system that had a much smaller fee than GofundMe. Maybe Paypal will someday for someone be a helpful way to send help. I am now wondering, in knowing there is much wisdom in the Tribe’s way, is there a specific reason why the GofundMe is a preferrable? I see that your GofundMe was completed and that is heartwarming. I hope your needs are met as outlined. Best wishes to you.

  25. Sher says:

    I have a similar story…except I have meniere’s disease and don’t yet have a van. I do have a pull behind camper (but no vehicle to pull it with) which is currently parked in my parents driveway…they are both 91 and need 24/7 care which my sister and I are doing for the rest of the time we are blessed with having them with us. Eventually I will either need to find land to park my camper on or sell it and get a van to travel. I also can no longer work and live on disability. Also, I’m in the midwest so camper life will have to be without using the “systems” or they’ll freeze in the winter…so it will be similar to van life if I end up there. But who knows…if I can’t find a place in the country to park it I may end up traveling. Meniere’s is a very uncertain thing but the one for sure is I need to be as stress free as possible and I feel best in nature.
    I hope you are doing well and have many happy years ahead. Best of luck to you!

  26. HoneyGayle says:

    I have gone through all of the links I could find in this thread, and none of them appear to take me to the proper GoFundMe page. Has it been taken down? Have the needs been met?

  27. MMJ Canada says:

    Hi Bob! It’s so nice of you to feature Debra and share Debra’s story, she is a great source of inspiration. I just hope and she gets all the help she needs.

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