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Family living in 100-year-old home that needs massive overhaul
Some remarkable things are happening for a family that has practically been living hand-to-mouth over the past decade.
HumankindNS has come into the lives of the Nickersons, who live in a century-old home on a Yarmouth County peninsula.
Husband and wife, Anthony and Heather Nickerson have two teenage sons and a 10-year-old daughter.
Although the house is in dire need of repair and renovation, the family has been struggling in place, unable to leave because of sentimental attachment and financial difficulties. Housing and Social Services have both been contacted for assistance but the Nickerson’s say they haven’t had any luck there.
Heather has lived in the home since childhood and lost her father when she was four after he fell overboard while fishing.
Nine years later her mother passed away from cancer and she was brought up by her grandparents. After her grandfather died, Heather took care of her grandmother for three years until she passed away from cancer as well. Her grandparents left her the home they live in now.
Inside the house, gyprock has fallen away in chunks from the lathwork behind. The bathtub and shower look like a flamethrower was taken to the surface, due to an extremely high concentration of iron, with no water treatment unit in place.
Years ago, the couple took out a mortgage on the house to shingle the leaky roof and for an oil-burning furnace. However, the family can no longer afford oil for the furnace and instead use a wood-burning stove with a crack in it for heat. There is no insurance on the dwelling because of the cost associated with its age and shape. Although Efficiency Nova Scotia insulated the attic and basement several years ago, there is little insulation in the walls.
Anthony and his sons work at fish processing plants but are now on unemployment. Because Anthony has no car, he pays a taxi $15 each way to work.
Their daughter Kaleigh was born with scoliosis, and Heather suspects her baby girl suffered a stroke shortly after birth. Kaleigh has limited verbal ability and requires constant supervision.
Heather recalls a night when Kaleigh came close to dying in her sleep because she couldn’t breathe (her ribs were pressing on her lungs). Kaleigh’s feet, drumming on the crib, awakened her. The couple have taken turns at night monitoring her ever since.
Heather says these days, Kaleigh is starting to regurgitate more because she’s overdue to have her spine lengthened and refuses to wear a mask on the shuttle to Halifax.
In the past, she required surgery every six to nine months. The procedure involved having her spine cut open to reposition pins. Kaleigh often accidentally aggravated the healing site, resulting in infections.
A new invention, MAGEC rods, enable the rods to be adjusted using a magnetic device, instead of surgery.
The device extends the rods about four millimeters per office visit without any pain.
The Nickersons say they are extremely grateful to Dr. El Hawary (Chief of Orthopaedics at the IWK Health Centre).
He saved her life basically,” says Heather.
HumankindNS offers assistance
It’s a windy, sunny day on the day of this interview. The Nickersons are busy house cleaning, tossing out what they don’t need in preparation for a big event. Several cats wander amongst the items outside.
Because of their remote location, people used to drop cats off on the Nickerson’s property. They had as many as 38 at one time. After they were contacted, TNR fixed as many as they could and found homes for most of them.
Kaleigh is trotting about the lawn playing with Mike Wedge, the founder of HumankindNS. When Wedge recently learned about the Nickerson’s plight, he and other members moved it to the top of their list for attention. HumankindNS is “a group of likeminded humanitarians, made up of multiple talented people, gathering multiple resources to help whoever is in need physically, financially or emotionally in order to build a better community where the strong help the weak.”
The group rallies the community for some of their projects when significant costs are involved. The Nickerson’s is a giant one but there’s already been a start, with the installation of a water treatment system.
Anthony can’t get over it.
“It had a smell to it. You couldn’t drink it. We wouldn’t even give it to the cats.
“He raised money and put a water system in and we’re drinking it now. It’s clear, everything’s clean.”
But there’s so much left to do.
Wedge says everything needs to be done.
“Literally everything on the house, windows, siding, flooring, gyprock, insulation and more.”
He says he fell in love with the family and their “beautiful spirit” after meeting them.
“When I saw the conditions that they’re living in …,” he says and shook his head.
“They didn’t ask for help, we offered it. When I spoke to my friends and showed them the living conditions in the photos I took, they agreed. One thing you can’t do is just walk away.”
Wedge is hoping the business community, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and others can donate time or funds towards much-needed improvements.
Meanwhile, he’s setting the family up in one of his Airbnb homes in the area while renovations are underway.
“It makes me want to cry happy tears,” says Heather.
“It’s all because of Kayleigh I think,” added Anthony.
“He says he wants to do it for Kaleigh. I can’t refuse that.”
How to help:
- There are multiple ways people can help with this project. Donating funds can be done by sending an e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org
- You can also contact Mike Wedge at 902-307-7772
- HumankindNS has a Facebook Page where they will be listing specific things that are needed, including beds, range/stove and a wood burner (WHET certified) for the whole house.