Jeanette Chosa's life crashed when her boyfriend of four years, Jason Elias, went into cardiac arrest.
"We weren't officially married, but we were a family," says the 32-year-old Chosa. "We had everything with Jason. A home, our family. He had a job as a para[professional] at the middle school. I looked after, at the time, my daughter. Since we've lost him, I have nothing."
A heart attack brought on by an epileptic seizure killed the 40-year-old Elias last June. Chosa gave birth to their son Jason about three months later.
In Cass Lake, 200 miles north of the Twin Cites, Chosa sought the help of extended family. She felt she had no choice but to go solo up there along the Wisconsin border raising a baby, as well as an 11-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.
She wants to work, but that's impossible with a baby who demands milk every two hours. Chosa can't afford a pump. She and the kids moved in with an aunt. Her family eats on about $200 in monthly food stamps.
"I've been winging it the best I can," she admits. "I've kinda been lost in my own bubble since June."
From inside the bubble, a thought: Isn't baby Jason entitled to survivors' benefits from the fed accrued over decades?
The medical examiner needed $75 to release Elias' blood. A DNA testing company that would come to Cass Lake would be another $400. Chosa asked the world for help late last month. She started a GoFundMe campaign to pay for the costs she can't swing to authenticate Elias' paternity.
She's about halfway to her goal of $600.
"Once I get the DNA testing done and prove Jason is the father, I feel like I can start things again," she says. "Like finding babysitters, getting a job, and finding us our own place. I have no idea what the Social Security survivors' benefits might be. It's something, though. It'll help me begin this new life without Jason."