Ant's SSI Layover: a Savage Journey thru American Healthcare

For: Anthony Paino, your favorite former non-profit naturalist
Philadelphia, PA
Organizer: Jeanine Leclaire
Ant's SSI Layover: a Savage Journey thru American Healthcare (Anthony Paino, your favorite former non-profit naturalist)
of $3,600 goal
78% Complete
Raised by 43 donors

The Story

In 2011, Anthony began to show symptoms of what doctors now think may be CIPD (, although we didn’t know that, then. Tremors, anxiety, weight loss and trips to a neurologist did not result in answers or a diagnosis. He lost the job that he loved as the Public Programs Manager- Teacher/Naturalist at the Academy of Natural Science (a true vocational job, if not lucrative) and the disease continued to progress, causing visible tremors, further weight loss, decreasing mobility, the clarity of his voice and other symptoms. Anthony’s embarrassment about his condition and the toll it took on his ability to work and earn a living cost him his confidence, motivation, and the company of friends who otherwise might have helped.

"Ant immediately made me feel right at home at the Academy when I moved to the big city on my own. He was also the first to wish me luck when I moved on to the Zoo and gave me the encouraging words I needed to hear when I started that new adventure. He finds joy in bringing joy to others"- Mandy F.

Anthony needs your help now to face a particularly difficult time in both his health and finances. And we, Anthony’s care taking community, need to create a broader network of support for him, both for his sake and ours.

"Anthony gave me a great start to my career. Interning for him, there was no end to the stories about the museum and the generally quirky commentary. He would push me just enough to try the things that were difficult or new for me then - like learning how to use a drill and making business phone calls."- Michelle L. 

The current turn in Anthony’s health began on October 14 when, after not hearing from Anthony when expected, my partner and I went to check on him. We found him collapsed on the ground, where he had been for two days. We called 911 and rushed to the ER. In the past two weeks, he’s gone from barely being able to move to almost walking again and though he's doing better each day, he is very weak.  He’s almost to the point where he can feed himself but his dexterity and coordination are off. He's currently in rehabilitation with an estimated discharge date of November, 13th 2015.  

"Anthony motivated me to start running on the parkway when I was there. He used to take me when he would go on his runs! Also took me up to Maine to see the coyote way back when. So blessed to call him my friend" -Francesca R.R.

The Doctor believes that Ant has CIDP and we are waiting for an official diagnosis from a muscle biopsy. Including the biopsy, Ant underwent a spinal tap, EMG, Ultrasound, MRI, CT Scan, and other tests. We do not know at this point how much of the bill for these tests, Ant’s hospital stay or time in rehab will be covered by Medicaid.

"Ant always made me laugh and as a manager, always made me feel like no matter what, he was there to help, support, whatever needed. He seemed to always know what to say. He is a part of so many of my favorite memories from Academy. From him cleaning his turtle, to the leader of the "Tim-ettes and Dickens village to the classic "where was I" and lets not forget teaching children flawlessly about dinos with a guinea pig. He is a master!"- Karen V.

Anthony was able to manage financially on severance and unemployment, budgeting those out to cover the bare minimum at $500 per month, until they ran out. Since then, we helped Ant get SNAP (food stamps) and Medicaid. In May 2015, we got through the initial rejection process for Social Security Disability and heard that the hearing would be in anytime from 4 to 14 months.

"Anthony was an excellent teacher. Pete and I really enjoyed the talk he gave on birds and dinosaurs. Very impressive!"- Suzy L.

Anthony may not be my husband anymore, but he is still family to me. My mom, my sister and even my partner have ‘adopted’ Anthony and become a part of his support network. Others we are grateful for have paid credit card bills, visited him, replaced the hot water heater, sent care packages, walked the dog and given encouragement.

"He would say Wasserman are you sure you should be doing that...then he would do it right after i stopped. I t's like i want to have fun not you. Thinking of you Ant!" Ari W.

Please help us support this man that we love from whom disease has taken so much. Thank you for reading Ant’s story and please read on for ways to help!



Ways to help:

  • Donate through this site (Anthony still needs about $500 per month to cover bare minimum bills.)
  • Donate things Anthony needs like toilet paper, cat litter, dog food, cat food, paper towels, deodorant, soap, shampoo, shaving cream, razors, etc.
  • Shoes, winter clothes, etc. (Looking neat and clean is important to Ant, which has been difficult in the hospital)
  • Cook with Ant or bring frozen meals / leftovers
  • Visit (Just think, even seldom visits from many people would average out to alleviate so much of Ant’s experience as a near shut-in)
  • Housework / handy work

"He let me steer the cherry picker to dust dinosaurs! They're lucky they're still standing"- Sherry W.

"Anthony really liked his job., he had a few opportunities to leave but always stayed on. We saw him once on tv when he was interviewed at his place of work with one of the animals he took care of explaining all about the animal. He was very good at his job, I was sad when he lost it." - Phil P.

"All my memories of Anthony are of him constantly moving, talking, sharing, working. I've met very few people that could do as much as him, and really no one that could do it with as much humour, joy, and enthusiasm. He's a treasure."

"True story: Anthony introduced me to the joy that is a Starbuck's mocha. It was always a guilty little bit of happy when my morning started with a walk with him to Starbucks."- Dusti Lynne M.

"He was so sweet, funny and very thoughtful of others.....I will keep him in prayer" -Shantay J. 

"Ant always made feel like one of the crew when I first started at the Academy and was always willing to help me at work and outside of it. Thru it all he never lost his sense of humor and more than likely never will." Wil T.

"He's one of the kindest people I've ever met." - Timshel P.

"His sense of humor is spectacular. He also has the type of personality that makes people want to be around him. Even if he was complaining about something, he somehow usually managed to still be in a good mood" -Nicole K.

"Funny enough, he was always concerned about my vehicular safety,.....hahaha. I'm all seriousness, he has such an amazing sense of humor that is totally contagious!" -Chris C.

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on April 6, 2016

Posted on April 6, 2016

I wanted to say thank you to all of you who have, and have continue to, donate.  It's not just the financial help, but the knowing that friends are there for you.  

If you haven't heard, Ant broke his arm.  It's been almost a month.  It's a bad break.  Ant had been making great progress, but has now been set back a bit.  It's not just being unable to use the arm it's the severe pain every time he moves.  

I'm sorry I haven't been the best with updating everyone.  It's difficult running my own business and taking care of Ant to have the time.  An angel donor is paying for a Social Services student who has Clinical experience to help Ant.  This is very new.  He will be helping Ant with goals to get back in the swing of things.  He is also helping with some of the chores like grocery shopping.  This allows me to support Ant better as a friend.  The more we get people to donate time- doing things like grocery shopping the more time that can be devoted to occupational therapy, and achieving goals.

Thank you again!  Remember: a call, a text, a note- all go a long way 

Posted on December 8, 2015

Posted on December 8, 2015

Good news!
Ant gained 5 pounds!  It's always been hard to keep weight on him, but he got scary low.   Thank you for all the food donations.  He's doing so much better.  The Dr was shocked that he walked into the appointment.  He thought Ant would need at least a walker.  

Ant still has a lot of pain in his arm.  he can't feel his pinky at all and still has a lot of weakness and gets tired very fast.   He'll need another EMG to make sure the progress isn't superficial.  The results from the lab are still not back.  Even the Dr was calling the lab.  So frustrating. The EMG points to CIDP but with out the results there is no official diagnosis.  Which is a problem for things like the support group and receiving the disability insurance.   

I still have no idea how long Ant will need financial help.  At least until August and maybe longer.  Those who can't help financially can visit and send cards, call, text.  All these things really lifts his spirits.  

I'm sorry I haven't bee able to update you as much as I'd like.  I've been very busy catching back up on my own life... things I've put aside like my art business.  Nick and I sell other people's art at cocktail parties.  Ant has been helping where he can.  There is plenty of cat art (and non cat art) and handmade cards left.  We are having a 'craft'n, make'n, Stitch'nbitch' Thursday.  or Just contact me and we'd be happy to have you for coffee.  The money i make right now is mostly all given to Ant.  craft n stitch n bitch

I also have this ink drawing available as archival high quality reproductions where all the profits I receive go to Ant Art work to support Ant click here

Thank you for all your support.  I couldn't do this without all of you!

Posted on November 21, 2015

Posted on November 21, 2015

Hi folks! Thank you for all your support.  I've been busy getting Ant settled and working (I had to get back to that so I can help Ant). Yesterday Nick and I wrangled Baby- Ant's cat that decided to live in the wall of Nick's mom's stairwell.  She destroyed a wooden spoon and gave my hand a good bite, but She is now with Anthony.  Baby, after a month of hiding, was being pet by Ant last night, and crying for Elwood.  Well, we'll be going to NJ today to get her Elwood.   Hopefully we'll get some reunion photos for facebook.

I've been in contact with the lawyer, she is going to approach a judge about speeding up Ant's disability case.  She says theres a one in 30,000 chance, so I'm not holding my breath.  It's been a year since the initial application.  It's liable to be August before there is a hearing. 

Thank you for all the support!!!!

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