Man with liver cancer sleeping on makeshift bed gets new mattress

Man gets much needed mattress

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - A sick man's tearful plea for a new bed led to an outpouring of help from caring people.

Robert Whiting, Jr. says he can't afford to buy one himself, and the makeshift mattress he sleeps on now is a bad substitute for a real mattress. Whiting also says he's in constant pain from liver cancer and hepatitis.

Whiting called 12 On Your Side for help, and he will get a new mattress thanks to the generosity of others.

The Petersburg man says he's worked all his life. Now at 60 years old, his poor health is preventing him from taking care of his own needs.

Whiting says he has called many organizations, including Social Services, looking for help that hasn't come.

Whiting's makeshift mattress consists of two comforters and a long piece of foam rolled up inside a fitted sheet to keep all the loose pieces together.

"I lay on this side a little bit, but not too long, because that's where the liver is on the right side. Maybe with a better bed, I can get a good night's rest," said Whiting.

Whiting says he has hepatitis C, B and liver cancer. He says it's difficult to find a comfortable sleep position.

"I can't get comfortable. I'm in so much pain with the liver," said Whiting.

He says his body hurts constantly with the slightest move to do anything, even when he's pulling up the fitted sheet to keep the comforters and foam from falling out. The pain stops him in his tracks.

"It's just hard when I've got to move around like that. I just need a minute," said Whiting.

Just getting up is painful. Whiting says he fights back tears after calling so many organizations for help and not receiving any.

"It hurts. I get to crying. I get upset sometimes, and you think about what you used to do, which you can't do now, and it just eats you up inside," said Whiting.

Diane Walker left a message for his social worker Monday night, but she has not returned the call.

Minutes after the story aired on NBC12 News at 6, offers of help came pouring in.

Local mattress manufacturer Symbol Mattress delivered a brand-new mattress to Whiting on Thursday. An employee called Diane Walker shortly after the story aired and Symbol's Operations Manager Jeffrey Hilbruner organized the delivery.

"Oh. Wow. Oh. Wow. That's what I'm talking about. Wow. I'm in heaven boy," said Whiting, who was quick to test it out. "Let's lay on this liver side. See what it feels like...See, I couldn't do this before. I couldn't lay on this right side at all. I got some support there. It doesn't feel like a jab sticking in me."

"Everybody has to sleep, and you saw what the guy was sleeping on in the story, and it was pretty depressing," said Hilbruner.

The Richmond-based company, Symbol, is locally owned and has been in business since the seventies, with five other plants across the east coast and one in Wisconsin. They build custom mattresses for every budget and say they brought out the best match for Whiting - a high-end plush Englander.

"It was just the right thing to do," said Hilbruner.

"I'm blessed that there are people actually out in the world that actually care and help and think about people. Oh, this feels great," said Whiting.

The response to Whiting's need was quick and in numbers. We thank each and every one of you who stood ready to help when called upon.

Thanks again to Symbol for making it happen with a short turn-around.

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