A rural Chariton, Iowa, man credits his current misfortunes to bad luck.
Mike Lamberson, a member of the Chariton High School Class of 1985, served nine years in a U.S. Naval Construction Battalion before being medically discharged in 1997. For most of the next 20 years, he worked first as a carpenter at a casino in Gulfport, Mississippi, before working at factories in Des Moines and Knoxville, Iowa.
Today, he lives in a storm-damaged home near Williamson, Iowa. It was built 70 years ago by his late grandfather, Henry Pierschbacher. He gets by on the monthly disability checks he receives as a result of the shoulder that was crushed during the Gulf War and the knees that were injured when he was hit by a car while doing physical training at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas in the mid-1990s.
“The military was downsizing,” Mike said of the time of his discharge. “It was using pretty much any excuse and I got let go because I had too many surgeries. Otherwise, I would have stayed in. I tried to stay in.”
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, and with his marriage coming to an end, Mike decided to return to Chariton to visit his mom, Martha. “When I came home and saw what sad shape she was in, at that point, I decided to move back here,” he said. “It was one of those things where I just kind of fell into the role of taking care of her.”
Martha Lamberson – who had cyptogenic organizing pneumonia, a rare lung condition known as COP – died in 2012. She was 76. For the last eight years of her life, Mike was her full-time caregiver. In the years since her death, he has been paying some of her medical expenses that weren’t covered by Medicare.
“It put me in a financial bind and some people don’t understand that,” he said.
That bind, combined with his physical limitations, has prompted Mike to set up a GoFundMe account in order to raise money he needs for home repairs. Two wind storms in 2019 damaged the siding on his house and garage, broke windows, uprooted trees and took out two power poles. His homeowner’s insurance will cover costs to replace the siding, but Mike says he will have to pay to replace windows and the light poles. The house’s old septic system also needs to be replaced and Mike would really like to make his bathroom handicapped accessible.
“The bathroom has become an issue because I fall a lot,” he said. Since December, he has had his knees replaced and Mike is still recovering from the second surgery, which was done in late June.
“I’m going to put my faith in the Lord,” Mike said. “People are calling and asking what they can do. This is still a good community. My problem is that my physical health is so bad right now I’m not able to do any of the work. So when people offer to donate windows or whatever, I’m like, ‘Well, that’s great, but I can’t put them in.’”
It’s not a situation in which he ever expected to find himself.
“I worked until my body gave out in 2017,” he said. “I’m just like anybody else. I have the same trials and tribulations anybody else would have. I guess I just have a little worse luck than some people.”