LA VERNE, California, January 21, 2018 — Trevor was born to wear a hard hat. He’s was at his best, fearlessly swinging off the sides of high rises, 20 or 50 stories high, installing rebar. He’s a union ironworker. He helped build the Wilshire Grand downtown and scads of other skyscrapers that now touch the clouds because of his work.
“I loved it, man,” Trevor said.
But now his weekly routine revolves around a monotonous cycle doctor visits — lung specialists, heart specialists, allergy specialists, ear, nose and throat experts.
He’s not 82 or even 62, he’s 22. It was only a few years ago that he graduated from Bonita High School and a few years before that, Oak Mesa Elementary. He wrestled and played varsity football. The guy was a stud.
After high school, he knew he didn’t want an office job. “I could never picture myself working in an office,” Trevor said. “I like being on my feet, moving around, then kicking off my boots at the end of the day.”
So, for a while, he worked for a hazmat company picking up hazardous waste, then when a job opened up for an ironworker position with the union, he leaped at the opportunity.
The truth is, the union had to hire him because they were sick of taking his phone calls.
“I kept calling them every day,” Trevor recalled. The conversation couldn’t have been any more direct. “’Hey, I need a job. I got a kid.’”
His fiance is Mia. They met their senior year at Bonita High. Their son Cayden is now three years old.
When his job plea (prayer?) was answered, he was suddenly making $35 an hour, with the opportunity for overtime. With benefits, his compensation was about $48. He was living the American dream. “I had a future, I had a career that I loved,” Trevor said.
But about six months ago, Trevor started blacking out on the job. Once, he passed out in a porta-potty. When he awoke his face was pressed against the outhouse’s door. He felt dizzy and confused and out of sorts, but he silently and nervously went to back to work. Part of the ironworker’s code is you don’t complain.
But the episodes continued. Sometimes, driving home, he would pull off to the side of the highway, clutching his chest, fighting for air. He couldn’t see the elephant, but he could feel its weight blocking his airways. His tonsils swelled up, making it hard to swallow.
Finally, Mia convinced him that he needed to see the doctor. He saw several. At first, his condition was passed off as an anomaly. He was 22. Yeah, he had smoked a little, but he wasn’t a candidate for lung cancer. His condition, he was told, was most likely caused by dehydration or anxiety or panic (maybe all those high rises were finally getting the best of him).
But his condition didn’t improve. Subsequently, he had some non-cancerous lumps removed from his chest, along with his troublesome tonsils. Then a La Verne doctor, after putting him through a battery of tests, finally homed in on a diagnosis. Trevor was suffering from environmental asthma and lung disease.
But what he heard after the doctor’s diagnosis was even worse. “He told me to start looking for a new line of work,” Trevor said.
The doctor filled out the necessary paperwork to get him on disability, but that insurance runs out this March, and that money represents only a sliver of his old take-home pay — barely enough to keep food on the table after rent and the utilities are paid.
So Trevor, who has to use a nebulizer every four hours to help him breathe easier, took the doctor’s orders and started looking for a new line of work.
First, he relied on his persistence that had always worked so successfully. He talked to his union about getting a desk job, maybe something to do with safety or compliance. But Trevor said they treated him like he was damaged goods — a “liability.” He also inquired about retraining through the union, but was told there was no funding for that.
“I was told that unless you’re will willing to cover rebar all day, there’s nothing for you,” Trevor said.
“What about working in the office?” he persisted.
“No, no, no, nope, nothing,” he was told.
Feeling ostracized by his union, he started applying for city maintenance jobs, but again he slammed into a brick wall.
The rejections were piling up as fast as his bills. “While your credentials are indeed impressive, there are other more qualified candidates suited for the position … but we’ll keep your application on file should anything come up .”
He called United Parcel Service, only to be told there was nine-year wait — and that’s in a good economy.
Swallowing his pride, he started applying for minimum-wage retail jobs in the mall, but the responses were like the others.
“I must have filled out 50 applications, and I couldn’t get anything,” he said. “They told me I didn’t have any experience working the register.”
“But you said, “‘It was was entry-level,’” he wanted to respond, biting his lip.
Clearly, his frustration along with his family’s bills have continued to build.
Outside of Mia, who works part-time and is going to school to realize her dream of being a teacher, there’s no outside family to help, Trevor said.
So, at their breaking point, Mia decided to turn to social media, asking for support from the La Verne community that she and Trevor have long been a part of.
Meanwhile, Trevor, keeps going to his doctors, his condition no better. In fact, he recently inquired about an oxygen tank, thinking it might improve his quality of life, but his doctor has put off that option for now.
“He said he didn’t want to do that because when you do that, that pretty much means we’re giving up on you.”
Trevor isn’t ready to give up.
The page is https://www.youcaring.com/trevorkent-1028135