Shawn and Carl Hall had it all: thriving careers, a solid marriage and beautiful children. There was no reason to believe they wouldn’t enjoy continued health and success. So in 2004, when Shawn, then a program manager for the U.S. Department of Education, was offered a full scholarship to pursue a second master’s degree, the Halls decided she should accept. Her academic schedule would allow her time to home school their daughters, which had become a priority. Still, Shawn admits, “It’s not easy to quit your good government job.” At the time, she was in her early 30s and earning a yearly salary of $75,000.
Carl began to juggle two jobs as an airline customer care agent and a warehouse package shipper, but the couple still had trouble making ends meet. After Shawn earned the degree, the family relocated from Maryland to North Carolina for gigs that ultimately didn’t pan out. The Halls had to tap savings, borrow money and even work newspaper routes. Shawn—who also holds a master’s in international management—finally got good-paying work in 2009, strategizing for pharmaceutical companies. Unfortunately, a year later, the Halls found themselves being sued by one of the pharmaceutical companies she consulted for. As their legal battle progressed, Shawn became pregnant with the Halls’ fourth daughter. “The lawsuit depleted our savings and we were being evicted, so we filed for bankruptcy,” says Shawn, now 43. “I thought, ‘My God, it can’t get any worse.’”
But it did. Shawn’s blood pressure shot up, and so did her weight. Carl began to experience frequent headaches and tightness in his chest. “It’s not good,” says Shawn, who currently takes medication for hypertension but fears for her husband’s life. “I wanted him to be here with us,” she remembers with strain and sadness evident in her voice. 
Read more in the August 2015 issue of EBONY Magazine.