Help Me Howard looks back on emotional 2020 for 4 South Florida families

(WSVN) - It was such a terrible year because of COVID for so many people. One family couldn’t find out where their father was. Another wasn’t allowed to view their dead relative’s body to confirm it was the right person because he died of the coronavirus. But there was some amazing news for Howard Finkelstein’s mother. It’s all in tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

2020 was tough. Not having-to-wear-a-mask or work-from-home tough. Losing-a-loved-one tough.

Rafael Perez, couldn’t find his father: “He started saying that he was tired of living, that he wanted to die.”

Rafael’s 95-year-old father Alberto was hit with COVID and hospitalized. Fortunately, he recovered, but then he was sent to a nursing home.

Rafael asked, “‘Which one?’ ‘Oh, we don’t know.’ ‘What do you mean you don’t know? He was transferred.’ ‘Oh, we can’t tell you.'”

Rafael says the Florida Department of Children and Families told him, since he was a ward of the state, they didn’t have to tell him where his 95-year-old father was.

Rafael Perez: “I’m sure he is scared. I don’t even know if he is alive.”

Rafael asked us to find his father. First we determined the state was wrong. Legally, they had to tell him where his father was.

And they did tell him … that Alberto had passed away.

Rafael Perez: “Finally, thanks to you guys digging around, they told me his body was at the morgue.”

A horrible ending in this terrible year.

Lazaro Chirino, couldn’t view father’s body: “It really makes no sense.”

COVID also created a nightmare for Francisco Chirino’s family.

Cindy Sanchez, couldn’t view grandfather’s body: “We were never able to see my grandfather while he was in the hospital because of the COVID situation.”

COVID killed Francisco … and then another nightmare appeared.

Cindy Sanchez: “They need to let me see the body so I can identify my grandfather is in the casket.”

The funeral home wouldn’t let the family see Francisco and also refused to embalm him because he died of COVID.

And then…

Lazaro Sanchez: “The cemetery is basically telling us they will not place him in the mausoleum if he’s not embalmed.”

After we got involved, they then took a picture of Francisco to show Cindy it was her grandfather, and another funeral home embalmed him.

Lazaro Sanchez: “We do understand the issue of the pandemic and the coronavirus and all of that, but I think it’s unjust.”

One more sad coronavirus story we saw over and over.

Clarica Walker, electricity turned off: “On Friday at 12 noon, the power goes out in my house.”

When COVID hit, the state blocked Clarica’s landlord from evicting here, so in retaliation, he cut her power to get her to leave.

Clarica Walker: “My 9-year-old daughter in there that has chronic asthma, I have to put her on a breathing machine twice a day.”

What the landlord did was illegal. We let him know, and the electricity was turned back on.

Clarica Walker: “I don’t care how many tears roll down my face. Thank you, Help Me Howard and Channel 7News enough, for even stepping up and taking my case when y’all got millions of cases to deal with.”

Clarica was happy. Howard’s mother was overjoyed.

Charlotte Rothfarb, Howard Finkelstein’s mother: “You have to have that willpower, and this has been my motto all along. ‘Yes, I can, and yes, I will.'”

We met Charlotte through Zoom on her 90th birthday. An enormous day, because 10 years ago, she was hit with Stage 4 cancer and told she didn’t have long to live.

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “It’s like someone takes a two-by-four and hits you in the stomach and the head at the same time.”

But Howard started a search to find a doctor to save his mother, and they found Mohammad Jahanzeb.

Howard Finkelstein: “He is a rock star in the world of oncology.”

Chemo was too much for Charlotte to handle, so M.J., as his patients call him, tried a new immunotherapy drug called Opdivo.

Dr. Mohammad Jahanzeb, Florida Precision Oncology: “You will be my first patient to go on it, and again, in a brave spirit, she said, ‘What do I have to lose? Let me try it.'”

It worked incredibly well.

Charlotte Rothfarb: “He saved my life. Yes, if it weren’t for him, I would be gone.”

Now at 90, Charlotte is healthy and happy, because when she was told, “You are going to die,” she refused to give up.

Charlotte Rothfarb: “Every morning I wake up, and I say, ‘Thank you, God.’ My feet go down on the floor, and I stand up straight. Woo! That’s it.”

Ten years ago, she was told, “You don’t have long to live,” and in Charlotte’s December checkup, M.J. told her, her cancer continues to disappear.

Determination and a great attitude can make an enormous difference, not just for Charlotte, but for all of us.

A situation sickening you? Refuse to lose to the problem? Let us prescribe a solution and find a cure to make you feel better.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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