Fayette County

Lexington man with cerebral palsy making progress in quest to get home

Jerry Ginter in his hospital room at the University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital on Dec. 3. Ginter, who has cerebral palsy, has been at UK since Oct. 30 after chest pains and a stomach virus sent him to the ER from a nursing home in Carroll County.
Jerry Ginter in his hospital room at the University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital on Dec. 3. Ginter, who has cerebral palsy, has been at UK since Oct. 30 after chest pains and a stomach virus sent him to the ER from a nursing home in Carroll County. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Jerry Ginter is anxious to get back on his feet and back to his Lexington home and his two beloved dogs.

A series of illnesses, setbacks and a possible misdiagnosis have kept the 54-year-old man born with cerebral palsy in hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers since March 2.

Ginter, whose plight to return to his home was featured in an Aug. 21 Lexington Herald-Leader article, was waiting to be transferred Friday from the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center to UK’s Good Samaritan Hospital. He has been told that he will receive intensive physical therapy at Good Samaritan.

That’s good news.

“I’ve been told I’ll get more therapy over there,” Ginter said.

Getting back on his feet and getting the physical therapy he says he needs has been a nine-month struggle. And Ginter thinks if he did not have a physical disability, his long trip back to independence may have been shorter.

“I think because I have a physical disability, people don’t think I have mental abilities,” said Ginter, who can be difficult to understand because of the cerebral palsy. “People don’t listen to me.”

Ginter awoke one day in early March and could no longer stand —likely a reaction to a new medication. He went to Saint Joseph Hospital and then was sent to Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital for physical therapy to regain his strength. But an infection in his foot sent him to UK Hospital for surgery.

He was sent to Tanbark Health and Rehabilitation Center to recover from surgery and get physical therapy. But Medicare, a federal health care program for the elderly and disabled, denied further physical therapy after several weeks, saying that Ginter was not making improvement. Ginter then was sent to a nursing home in Carroll County in late August where he remained until Oct. 29.

At Green Valley Health Care and Rehabilitation Center, Ginter made some improvement. He was able to stand for more than 30 seconds on his own and was eventually able to get himself up out of a wheelchair and into his own bed. But the therapist he was working with left to take a higher-paying job and Ginter’s rehabilitation faltered.

Then Ginter contracted a serious stomach virus in late October. His brother -—who was visiting from Maine —picked him up from the nursing home to take him back to Lexington for a series of doctors’ appointments on Oct. 29. Ginter started experiencing chest pains. He was taken to UK Hospital again and was admitted on Oct. 30.

Ginter was severely dehydrated as a result of the stomach virus and had other health problems, including bed sores. While he was at UK Hospital, Ginter met with Dr. Robert Lightfoot, a rheumatologist and internist. Lightfoot discovered that Ginter’s re-occurring gout problem was not being treated appropriately. Lightfoot increased his gout medication.

“If it wasn’t for Dr. Lightfoot, he spent more than an hour talking to me, we would have never figured out that I had been misdiagnosed and given the wrong medication,” Ginter said.

Theresa Warren, Ginter’s niece, said Ginter’s problems were largely related to the gout. If he had been placed on the appropriate dosage of medication in March, Ginter likely would have been able to complete physical therapy months ago, she said.

“He had not been treated with the right milligrams for the gout,” Warren said.

With the gout —which can cause his legs and feet to swell — now under control, Ginter hopes that with daily intensive physical therapy he will soon be able to walk again. But months of inactivity and touch-and-go physical therapy have left him weak, he said.

I think because I have a physical disability, people don’t think I have mental abilities

Jerry Ginter who has cared for himself since he was 9.

But Ginter has faced other obstacles during his 54 years and come out on top.

His mother died when he was 9 in 1970. When he was 13, the state and county removed Ginter from his hard-drinking father’s custody for failing to take care of Ginter. Even though Ginter received good grades in high school, the state removed him and placed him in a vocational program for people with disabilities. He never received a GED or a high school diploma.

He finally received his diploma from Woodford County High School at age 25 in 1986, after taking night courses and spending more than $2,500 of his own money. He worked most of his adult life — sometimes more than one job to make ends meet. He purchased his home in 1986. That home is now paid off.

Then in 2006, while visiting his brother in Maine, Ginter fell down some steps and injured his leg. Several pins and screws were placed in his right ankle and foot.

At the time, a doctor said he should be placed on disability. But Ginter resisted.

"I got back up and I tried," Ginter said in the August Herald-Leader story.

He returned to his job as a janitor at Temple Adath Israel for several weeks. But it was too much. He went on disability in 2007.

When Ginter was moved to the nursing home in Carroll County he was told he would have to go on Medicaid, the state-federal insurance program for the poor, to pay his mounting bills.

But Medicaid has income requirements and can eventually — typically after six months — require people to sell assets such as their homes. Ginter had money in savings for his home, car and other insurance payments. Medicaid wanted that money even though Ginter was hoping to return to his home, Ginter said.

“I am on disability,” Ginter said. “I have to save that money all year so I can make those insurance payments. I was not going to give that up.”

I know he’s frustrated. And I’ve been frustrated. But we hope now that he is getting the treatment he needs at UK, we will be able to find acute rehabilitation he needs.

Theresa Warren, Ginter’s niece

Since he has been at UK for most of the last month and no longer in the nursing home, Ginter opted not to proceed with the application for Medicaid.

Warren, who is helping Ginter manage his bills, said Medicare and secondary insurance have picked up many of Ginter’s medical expenses. But his bills are starting to add up. Warren estimates Ginter has close to $20,000 in outstanding bills. Some of those bills may still be paid by insurance, Warren said.

“I know he’s frustrated,” Warren said of Ginter. “And I’ve been frustrated. But we hope now that he is getting the treatment he needs at UK, we will be able to find acute rehabilitation he needs.”

It looks like Ginter won’t be back in his home in time for Christmas. But there is good news. His brother and a friend overhauled his house, adding a wheelchair ramp and putting in handicap rails in his bathroom. Ginter’s home will be ready if and when he gets home, Warren said.

Ginter’s neighbors have taken care of his dogs —a doberman and a Chihuahua. He has only seen them once since late August. He wants to get back home so he can see them.

“Hospitals don’t allow dogs,” Ginter said, shaking his head.

To help:

Donations can be made to the Jerry Ginter Donation Account at any Chase Bank location.

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