DADE CITY — On the evening of Feb. 24, Christy McBride lost half of her tooth while sitting on her couch watching a movie. It was a molar on her upper right side. It split in half — a result of years of subconsciously grinding her teeth. Her front teeth are straight and pretty, but she has few molars left. When you have no money, it's cheaper to get bad teeth pulled than to get them repaired.
What was left of the broken tooth was sharp and jagged, like an arrow slicing her tongue when she talked or tried to eat. The root was exposed and so anything — a breeze, a cold drink — sent fire piercing through her upper jaw. She began lying down with her cheek pressed on a heating pad, but she can't sleep much. The pain keeps her awake. McBride is a business student at Pasco-Hernando Community College, and her husband is a disabled veteran, though McBride says his insurance does not cover dental costs.
The McBrides and their two children live on his monthly disability check. But after their mortgage payments and other bills, there is little left over. On Friday, the McBrides had $300 left, which has to last them until April 1. McBride does not want to spend any of it on herself, in case something happens to her family and they need the money.
So, McBride, 31, did something she never allows herself to do. She asked for help.
"I am desperately needing a dentist," McBride wrote on Craigslist, in the barter category.
"I can clean your office, run errands, mow your lawn, answer phones, you name it. I have had prior experience as a secretary. I am in school part time but am otherwise pretty flexible. I can pay cash if you are willing to do some sort of payment plan, we only get paid once a month and live off of VA disability. His benefits do not cover the kids or my dental."
It's been two weeks now and she hasn't heard anything.
"I hate this," she said of having to ask for help.
McBride has always done the best she could with what she had. She has two brothers and two sisters and, when she was 5, her parents divorced. Her mother moved to Canada and dropped out of her life. Everything was so unstable, and McBride was lost. At 11, she met David McBride, who was three years older than her. Eventually they began dating, and she moved in with him and his parents in Dade City. David and his family were her anchor. They gave her love and stability and she didn't feel lost anymore. Through working, Christy and David bought their own place, a small mobile home that wasn't great, but was theirs.
"He was my blessing," Christy said of David.
David joined the National Guard and Christy became pregnant during her senior year of high school. She gave birth to a son, named after his father, who joined the Army. Christy and David married in a small white church in Dade City and, two weeks later, were living at Fort Stewart in Georgia. Christy gave birth to a daughter, Farrah. Christy and David settled into the Army life. Christy worked in retail and took care of the kids. Things were good until two things happened: David was in a tank that hit a hole and flipped, causing a severe injury to his lower back and hip, and in 1998, David's mother was diagnosed with cancer.
The McBrides moved back to Dade City and bought a small house, so they could be close to David's mom. Christy loved her so much. She was the mom Christy needed growing up. She died in 1999.
David continued with the National Guard and worked as a detention deputy for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office until his injury wouldn't allow him to do so anymore. Two or three days a week, David couldn't get out of bed. He went through physical therapy and pain management, but his doctors said there wasn't anything else that could be done. So David went on disability. When he began having unexplained seizures, Christy quit her job so she could take care of him. Later, a doctor said he thought it was a reaction to a medication.
David has gone through a lot of emotional pain, not being able to provide for his family. For years now, he has told Christy, "I'm sorry. You deserve better." And she tells him she loves him and that he has nothing to be sorry for.
"You're my hero," she says. "How many girls get to live with their hero?"
In being her anchor, David's stability has given Christy the ability to be that same person for her family. Her brothers routinely live with her, when they need help — so her small house is even more cramped, especially with her four dogs and one cat. She has reconnected with her mother, even though it's painful. Christy is zealous about being a good mother.
"I want the best for them," she said. "I want them to have everything I didn't."
Her son, who is now 14, is determined to be a doctor. A year and a half ago, McBride enrolled at PHCC to earn her college degree. In addition to loving her children, she wants to be an example for them. She had to take out loans to do this, but she knows it is important. Her dream is to open a business in Dade City, maybe a skating rink, to give the children of the city a positive place where they can go.
McBride is on course to graduate this summer with her associate's degree in business. Hopefully, in a few years, she won't have to tolerate screaming pain because she doesn't have the money to go to the dentist. If things go well, she'll be the one who could answer a message like that, with a comforting word and a check of her own.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4609.