The government shutdown: Americans on the edge

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Story highlights

A cancer patient waits for a clinical trial

A contractor hopes he can make ends meet

A teenager's life is on hold

A disabled vet waits for surgery

CNN  — 

For some, it’s an emotional punch to the gut. For others, the consequences could be truly life-changing.

On the third day of the government shutdown, the impact is only beginning to be felt.

Federal employees and contractors felt the pinch first. But the ripple only started with them. It’s now radiating throughout the country.

Here are some of those stories:

The cancer patient

Michelle Langbehn, 30, of Auburn, California has a rare form of cancer known as fibrosarcoma and says she was within days of getting approved for a clinical trial at the National Institute of Heath that could potentially save her life. But the shutdown has meant the NIH isn’t accepting new test patients.

“I am furious that the Republicans in the House have chosen to shut down the government while attempting to repeal or change unrelated laws,” she says. “With the NIH being shut down, they are denying or delaying potentially life saving treatments to Americans in need of a miracle. I speak for everyone battling cancer when I say we don’t have time to wait.”

The Defense contractor

George Nikolaou lives in Reading, Pennsylvania, and has worked for the Department of Defense since 2008. His wife, Michelle, is in college and they have two children. George is taking odd jobs, but is making next to nothing, he says.

“So where is the solidarity of the great United States of America to stand together, make the compromises and get the budget passed?” he asks, “because my landlord is not going to work with our rent and I will be dammed if I become a homeless vet with a family on the street.”

Michelle says the family has enough money in the bank to make it to November. After that it gets dicey.

“I’d seriously like to take my kids to Washington, get them with a dinner plate in front of Congress and say, ‘Here are their plates. Feed my kids!’”

The Navy engineer

Kevin McNally is an electrical engineer for the Navy in San Diego. He says he has supported the Navy and Marine Corps for 26 years. Furloughs earlier this year cost him $10,000 of income and depleted his savings.

“I am worried for my wife and two young children because I cannot pay the bills if this shutdown continues. I do not blame one party or the other. I am sure they both think they are doing the right thing, but I worry they do not know the pain they are causing for the families of dedicated and hard working civil servants.”

The AmeriCorps volunteer

Gabrielle McNichol, 18, of Philadelphia, is a babysitter and also works as a recruiter at a nonprofit group. She has been conditionally cleared to serve as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Iowa starting in February, but, because of the shutdown, her future is on hold

“If this doesn’t go over well and the government stays closed and cannot agree on a fiscal budget, … AmeriCorps … may not have the funds to open up the … Winter 2014 program to the new members who are currently trying to get cleared; like me,” she says. “This also means, I will have to figure out what college I will have to go to, what I can afford in this short notice, what field I want to study in, and when I will start. It will be a very hard and stressful process. I’ve modeled my whole future around the AmeriCorps.”

The disabled veteran

Robin A. Davidson, 57, is a disabled veteran and a retired Navy reservist in northern California who was supposed to have surgery this week at Travis Air Force Base. Because of the shutdown, it was canceled. For now, it means she gets no relief from the constant pain which is “significantly impacting my ability to work.”

“I joined the military because I believed in our country and our government. However, this present situation is disgraceful and sends a horrible message to the rest of the world about what America has become.”

The military mom

Lisa Wright of Iron River, Michigan, is the mother of two children under the age of 5. She was injured during active duty in Iraq and receives disability benefits from the Veterans Administration and attends college through a vocational rehabilitation program through the VA.

“This is pathetic,” Wright says of the government shutdown. “There is a chance that without my benefits from the VA that we will lose our house and I will lose my vehicle. Thank God we are a two vehicle household. I can’t lose my Voc Rehab benefits or my disability without drowning. I hope that my light at the end of the tunnel isn’t going to burn out, and if it does I only hope that my husband and children and I can make it.”

The “non essential” employee

Tom Penders of Titusville, Florida, is an archaeologist and cultural resources manager, who has worked seven years for the Air Force. He is now on furlough. That makes him a non-essential government employee.

“It feels like crap (to be called non-essential),” he says. “I have no idea what we are going to do. We live paycheck to paycheck as it is and barely make ends meet. … I am looking for another job and may have to declare bankruptcy.”

The change-seeker

A.J. Olsen of Willamina, Oregon, is a small business owner who favors the shutdown and believes it will serve as a wake-up call for the nation.

“It’s time the government take lessons like we the everyday people do, and struggle like we do, they put their pants on just like we do. One leg at a time,” he says. “This shutdown is just a struggle like we all have to go through, so the cushy jobs of the government now don’t have the same stability they have had … they have only suffered two days and counting, if every one of them had to stand in the welfare line like I did, and go thru the same BS I did, they would change the systems, overhaul them.”

CNN’s Henry Hanks, Christina Zdanowicz, Daphne Sashin and Rachel Rodriguez contributed to this report