Migrant Family in Jeopardy as Mother Cares for Newborn Daughter and Her Husband Who Was Recently Paralyzed

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: Feb 25, 2024

The Chicago Tribune recently published an article that tells the tale of a young Venezuelan family who are struggling to simply survive after a horrific sequence of events.

Marilieser Gil-Blanco was paralyzed after being diagnosed with a rare medical condition. His wife, Genesis Chacon, is his full time caretaker, even though she gave birth via C-section just days ago. Not to mention that their most recent shelter kicked them out, and threw away all of their documentation.

Making Their Way to the USA

Genesis Chacon and Marilieser Gil-Blanco left their tumultuous homeland of Venezuela in hopes of a better life for their daughter.

Marilieser Gil-Blanco, Genesis Chacon, and their cousin Jefferson Cañizalez, in their family apartment with their youngest daughter

Source: @chiacgotribune/X

It was a painstaking process, moving from Venezuela to Colombia, then Peru, and all the way up through Central America before finally getting to the USA. They arrived in Chicago, with plans to apply for the correct visas, work, and make a life for themselves.

Contracting a Rare Neurological Condition Along the Way

However, things did not go to plan. On the long journey from Venezuela to Chicago, Marilieser Gil-Blanco developed a rare condition that paralyzed him from the chest down.

Axial T2 MRI of cervical spine demonstrating normal cord signal (green circle) and abnormal increased T2 signal in the central cord (red circle) with transverse myelitis.

Source: Wikipedia

The condition is called transverse myelitis. It is an extremely rare neurological disease which causes inflammation in the spinal cord, and can lead to paralysis. Marilieser Gil-Blanco’s case is especially bad; he cannot use his legs or control his bowels, he has sores on his back, legs, and ankles, and he feels unwell constantly.

Genesis Chacon Is Struggling to Take Care of Her Sick Husband

Marilieser’s rare condition is enough strain for any family, but in this case, the situation is even more complicated as his wife, Genesis, just had a c-section to welcome their second daughter only days before she was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune.

Photograph of Marilieser Gil-Blanco with his two daughters in the hospital just after his second daughter was born

Source: GoFundMe

And while doctors do not recommend any heavy lifting to someone who has just had a c-section, Genesis could not follow their instructions because she is the sole caretaker of her paralyzed husband, toddler, and newborn.

Things Got Even Worse for This Young Family

Genesis is only 22 years old, and Marilieser is just 23, but just after they welcomed their second daughter into the world, their lives became even more challenging as they realized all of their documentation had been thrown away.

Exterior view of the Inn of Chicago shelter in Streeterville, Chicago, Illinois

Source: @natalieymoore/X

They had been moved by local authorities at the end of January from a shelter at the Inn of Chicago in Streeterville to an apartment in Chatham. And while the staff at the Inn of Chicago told them they would hold their possessions until they could complete the move, that’s not what happened.

Genesis Got the Worst Possible Phone Call

While in a pharmacy with her husband and children, Genesis received a horrific phone call from the staff at the Inn of Chicago.

Woman looks stressed as she checks her phone

Source: Freepik

They told her that because she hadn’t returned for their possessions within 48 hours, they had thrown everything away. That included her daughter’s birth certificate, their personal documents, and necessary immigration papers.


Staff Claims They Simply Followed Protocol

Mayor Brandon Johnson of Chicago did not personally comment on the young family’s troubling experience, but he did send his deputy press secretary, Cassio Mendoza, to make a statement.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson speaks at an event

Source: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Mendoza sided with the shelter, saying, “As per protocol, staff gathered the rest of their belongings, labeled and stored them. Case management made them aware they will hold them for 48 hours. An extension was granted for a period of 72 more hours at which point the belongings were disposed of.”


Genesis Explained They Had Never Been Told There Was a 48 Hour Limit

However, Genesis Chacon explained to the Chicago Tribune that neither she nor her husband knew of any time limit, let alone one as short as 48 hours.

Hourglass running out of time on a wooden table

Source: Depositphotos

She also told the shelter that she was never contacted with a warning that they would be throwing away all of their personal possessions. However, by that point, there was nothing to be done. Their lives had been tossed into a dumpster.


Even Daily Life Has Been a Challenge for the Young Family

While their situation is certainly dire, Genesis and Marilierse have tried their best to stay positive, but it hasn’t been easy.

Man sitting in a wheelchair

Source: Freepik

In their new apartment in Chatham, Genesis had to carry her husband and his wheelchair up two flights of stairs, they didn’t have electricity or heat for an entire month, and no way of getting any money.


Genesis Took to Begging on the Street

Because of their struggles, Genesis decided her only option was to ask for money from passersby on the street. Her sign said, “Hello, we are Venezuelan family, could you help us with whatever comes from your heart, it will be very helpful to us, thank you, God bless you.”

Woman covered in a blanket begs for money on the street

Source: iStock

Fortunately, some people did help by offering the young mother money or food. And there, on the street, is where the Chicago Tribune writer found Genesis and learned of her almost unbelievable story.


Genesis and Marilierse Now Have Help from Their Cousin

Luckily, just when it seemed that things couldn’t get any worse, Marilierse’s cousin, Jefferson Cañizalez, finally arrived in Chicago to help.

Man in a wheelchair is clearly frustrated in front of a set of stairs

Source: Adobe Stock

Now, Cañizalez can carry his paralyzed cousin up and down the stairs to his doctor’s appointments and clean his wounds while Genesis looks after the girls. But it’s really not enough.


Many Have Banded Together to Help This Young Family in Need

Since the article was released by the Chicago Tribune, it has been shared all over the country and the world.

Screenshot of an X post by the Chicago Tribune about a Venezuelan family in need

Source: @chiacgotribune/X

And thanks to a Go Fund Me page, thousands of people have donated what they can to help this young family pay for their medical bills, food, clothing, and hopefully, someday, an apartment without two flights of stairs to go up and down. They still don’t have their personal documents, but they truly hope the Illinois Migrant Council will learn of their story and be able to help.