BRIDGEPORT — Like many Chicagoans, Isabella and Salvador Guzman are frustrated about the lack of street parking near their home — a problem that gets far worse during the snowy winter months.
Though the couple don't drive, they shovel and use "dibs" to save a spot for the revolving door of nurses, medical supply companies and ambulances that visit their daughter Gabriella, 5, who's hooked up to a ventilator and requires 24-hour care.
But after one of the overnight nurses who cares for Gabriella parked in a different spot on the block Saturday night, vandals placed two big city garbage cans atop her sedan. The Guzmans don't think the nurse was targeted on purpose, but the nurse has since threatened to quit.
Casey Cora discusses why parking has been difficult:
And if Gabriella's nurses are a no-show, the Guzmans said they are sent into a tailspin.
Gabriella needs constant monitoring, so someone has to stay up with her all night — no small feat for parents with full-time jobs.
"I don't know if you know what that's like, to depend on a nurse to be able to sleep. We're at everyone's mercy with the nursing care. We literally cannot leave the house unless there is someone there with her. ... It's scary when we don't know from one day to the next if they're going to come in," said Isabelle Guzman.
Gabriella, 5, suffered complications during birth, including an E. coli infection. At 11 days old, she had a heart attack, Isabelle said.
Instead of keeping her at the hospital, Isabelle and Salvador decided to bring Gabriella home to Bridgeport, where they live on a narrow stretch of Farrell Street, just north of Maria's Community Bar. The street does not feature residential zone parking restrictions, but there is additional unmetered street parking available along nearby 31st and Morgan streets.
Guzman said the bar's popularity has meant less street parking for nearby residents, and she's worried the Maria's parking lot will shrink once construction of a restaurant next door gets underway.
The Guzmans said they've complained to the bar and have tried to get help from 11th Ward Ald. James Balcer's office to help solve their parking problem.
Balcer said his staff has no record of the Guzmans calling for help; Isabelle Guzman said she called the ward office once or twice around Christmas and no one answered the phone.
Isabelle Guzman said the state-issued disabled parking placard her husband applied for last year via the ward office still hasn't arrived, but it wouldn't be useful anyway.
What they really need, she said, are the city-issued disabled parking signs that would give Gabriella's caretakers a guaranteed spot.
After a social media campaign started by aldermanic candidate John Kozlar took root on Monday — the Guzmans sent him a Facebook message asking for help after the garbage cans incident — Balcer visited the home a few times.
He's pledged to help expedite the parking signs.
"I will do whatever we can to help," Balcer said.
The owners of Maria's say Gabriella's nurses can use their parking lot during construction of their restaurant. Guzman said the nursing agency wants that in writing so their nurses won't get towed.
This being election season, Isabelle Guzman questioned the motivations for all of the last-minute action, including the sudden sidewalk-shoveling in front of her home on Monday. But she credited Kozlar, who first visited the home earlier this fall, for helping spread the word.
"I know some of that is to some extent politics. I know a lot of this might not be for the right reasons, but I'm going to get what I need for my daughter," she said.
Until the parking signs go up, whenever that may be, the Guzmans said they'll continue watching the front of their house like hawks.
Already, they've installed a phony camera aimed at the parking spot to deter drivers from violating their dibs, usually a couple chairs with a sign attached saying "parking spot for nursing."
Meanwhile, the nursing agency has offered up a solution for the victimized nurse: She'll now be taking a taxi.
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