Tom Watson Budgett is no stranger to loss.
When he was 10, he lost both of his parents after a drunk driver crashed into them while they were pulling a wagon to the general store in their hometown of Statesboro, Ga. His father suffered blood clots and was hospitalized for three months before his death. His mother, who was pregnant at the time, lived for a few months but did not survive the delivery. One of the twins she delivered also did not survive.
Eleven years ago, his son Kevin died at age 36 from an enlarged heart. In November 2011, Budgett’s wife of 65 years, Almerita, died from dementia and diabetes complications. She was 78.
“I just miss her,” said Budgett, 81, who has been suffering from emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for nearly a decade.
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“She was the strength of the family,” said daughter Roselyn Budgett, 53, who cares for her dad. “It was my mother who kept us together.’’
The Budgetts loved to visit their family, which included nine children, 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
“We’d just go around and see the children,” said Budgett, who lives in West Park in Broward County. “We had a lot of luck with our family.”
Today, visiting family has become difficult for Budgett, who relies on an oxygen tank after being diagnosed with emphysema. Doctors diagnosed the pulmonary condition after he was hospitalized for a collapsed lung.
“I stopped smoking about five years ago when I should have stopped a long time ago,” he said.
With constant oxygen intake a necessity for survival, a portable concentrator that plugs into a car cigarette lighter has become a requirement for Budgett to travel.
But Roselyn Budgett has had no luck in getting the insurance company to pay for one, which costs around $3,000.
Last summer, the family pooled their resources to rent a portable concentrator so their father could attend a family reunion in Georgia.
Sharon Camden, a volunteer for Broward Meals on Wheels who delivers food to the Budgett home once a week, recalls how he was a different person when he returned.
“That was a way for him to connect with his past and share some family things,” said Camden. “The joy he had just being able to spend time with his family.”
She realized how much having a portable concentrator would improve his life by allowing him to attend family functions and his grandchildren’s school events.
Camden enjoys her weekly chats with Budgett.
“He lost his wife last year, since then it has been very hard on him,” said Camden. “He just inspires me; after his wife passed away he worried me.”