SEARSPORT, Maine — Like many in the state, Shane Bracy has a problem with FairPoint Communications. Only in his case it’s not an inconvenience; it could be a matter of life and death.
Bracy, 37, is disabled with spinal injuries received from a fall from a roof while on the job and is also fighting two types of cancer.
One, multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 2, is a rare hereditary thyroid cancer found primarily in men. The other, renal papillary carcinoma, is a cancer of the kidney. Bracy has already lost one kidney and receives dialysis treatments, according to his wife. He has had six operations in the past 2½ years, uses a wheelchair and can walk short distances with the aid of crutches.
Because of his failing health, Bracy has a rescue alert, or “Lifeline,” that will connect directly through the telephone to the local ambulance service in case he falls, which has happened in the past. Only now he has no phone service.
Bracy’s phone, which was in his estranged wife Brandy’s name, was disconnected June 12 as she is in the process of moving to Bangor. The couple called FairPoint the week before to make sure that phone service at their Back Searsport Road home would be continued in his name, but when her phone was disconnected, the company never activated a replacement in his name. Bracy has been without his “Lifeline” for a week.
“They told me not to worry about it; everything would be fine,” Brandy Bracy recalled Thursday. “We’ve been calling them all week, and we still have no phone.”
Brandy Bracy, who is also disabled with a stress condition, said her husband’s health problems were the source of the strain in their marriage and the reason for their impending separation. She said she would have already left except that her husband needs someone to be with him 24 hours a day because of the lost “Lifeline.”
“I can’t leave him; his life’s at risk not having a telephone,” she said.
Bracy said that because she owed the phone company $300, its representative told her they could not switch the billing from her name to his unless the bill was settled. The Bracys said they were told the new line would be installed the same day the old line was disconnected, but it never happened.
When he checked on the situation after being informed of the Bracys difficulties Thursday, FairPoint spokesman Jeff Nevins said he learned their order was in “a stuck position,” probably through miscommunication.
Nevins said rather than ask that the phone be disconnected, Brandy Bracy should have asked that the bill be forwarded to her new address and her husband could have retained their existing phone and phone number. He said the company was working to fix the problem.
“We will escalate it and work on it and it will go to the top of the list. We will send someone out there as fast as we can,” Nevins said. “I’m very hopeful we can get somebody there tomorrow. Because of the medical situation, it will have the highest priority.”
The Bracys have a daughter, Caitlynn, who will turn 6 next week. He also has three children from a previous relationship who have the same genetic cancer as he does. His other daughter is 6, his sons 14 and 16 years old.
“All three are having their thyroids taken out on Aug. 14 because of the cancer,” Bracy said. “I wouldn’t have had kids if I knew I was going to pass something like this on.”
Bracy said the phone company repeatedly told him that he would be connected but that each time it was supposed to happen it never did. He speculated the company delayed filling his order because there was no money in it. Bracy’s phone service is subsidized and costs the state between $5 to $7 per month, his wife said.
“Every time I turn around, they give me a different excuse,” he said. “I think they’ve put me on the back burner because I’m not paying cash. I don’t want a computer line. I don’t want cable TV. I don’t need any of that. All I want is the basic service.”