Accident victim struggles to find care provider


March 16, 2000|By Lorraine Gingerich | Lorraine Gingerich,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"THIS COULD happen to anyone," Cheryl Primrose says.

Primrose is a woman who knows. Six years ago, she became a quadriplegic in a car accident.

Before the accident, she was a housewife and stay-at-home mom. She took classes at Howard Community College, volunteered at her children's school and worked for her husband's landscaping company.

Now she spends her time struggling to find in-home health care and dealing with the everyday aggravation of using a wheelchair, with no use of her arms or legs.

The accident happened Oct. 10, 1993. She was driving alone in a compact car on Route 94 when something ran across the road in front of her -- a deer, she thinks -- and she swerved to avoid it.

Primrose hit a ditch and sideswiped a tree. She was flown to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where she spent 1 1/2 months.

The accident damaged her neck and caused paralysis. Her left femur was damaged, her spleen had to be removed, and she was on a respirator for a while. She spent a total of about one year hospitalized.

During the first year after the accident, a lot of people helped her. But many stopped coming by.

"They couldn't handle it or didn't know what to say or didn't want to be involved," Primrose says.

Her husband, Mickey, does much of her home health care. He wakes her in the morning, dresses her, feeds her and gets her into her wheelchair.

According to Cheryl, some states will reimburse family members if they miss work to take care of a family member with disabilities. Maryland is not one of those states, she says.

Cheryl has some independence. She uses the telephone with a Sip and Puff -- a straw-like device that she sips on and puffs into to get a dial tone and to dial the operator. The operator then dials the number for her.

She also has a computer that is equipped to be run by her, using a stick in her mouth to type. Primrose tries not to let her disability rule her life.

"I get out and go places," she says. "I go to the mall, concerts, stores, plays."

She takes online credit classes at Howard Community College in computers and fine arts. She has hopes of earning money through the use of her computer.

"She has a lot of determination," says friend Barbara Larimore.

Her biggest problem has been getting a home health care provider. According to the Primroses, the care providers must register with the Howard County Health Department, and they choose their jobs.

The Medical Assistance program has only one provider that works in western Howard County. Many providers are not trained to work with people in Primrose's condition. She has had many providers, through private agencies and the Medical Assistance program.

The Howard County Health Department says its disability services program provides information, referral and case management for disabled people. They must go through Adult Community Evaluation Services to get a home health care provider. Providers must complete a certified nursing assistant course before they can work.

Though providers are available in Howard County, in Primrose's case the location of her home poses a problem.

"In the western Howard County area, it is very difficult to get a provider because of the distance for travel and lack of public transportation," says Marni McNeese of Disability Services.

Says Mickey Primrose: "I must have trained at least eight different aides."

"You can call a landscaper up, you can call a plumber, but when it comes to a human being who is in need, you wouldn't believe how hard it is to find someone to help," Cheryl says. "The way that the in-home health care system is set up, there aren't enough people who are interested in doing this line of work because they are not getting paid enough, so it's like a Catch-22. You're in between a rock and a hard place, and something has to change."

Mickey wants to work, but he spends a good deal of time caring for his wife. His landscaping business went bankrupt after the accident, and he works part-time.

"I don't have enough help to take care of me for my husband to work a 35- to 40-hour-a-week job," Cheryl says.

She also has contacted the HCC Nursing Department to find work study for students to learn on-the-job home health care.

The Primroses wish they had a social worker to handle their case. They worry about how all their problems have affected their children. The accident has been hard on their son, Brandon, 13, and daughter, Ryon, 15, and they haven't received counseling.

Cheryl would like to organize an in-home Bible study group. She also would like to organize a caregiver support group for her husband and people in similar situations.

She feels grateful to have her friends and supporters, and she has had help from parishioners at St. Andrew's Episcopal, St. Paul's Episcopal and Jennings Chapel Methodist churches.

Friend Barbara Allen contacted a man who donated weekly maid service. Also, through the Cheryl Primrose In-home Health Care Fund, Larimore, Donna Bennett and Trudi Lawson have raised funds for private health care.

Donations to help with the expenses of home health care can be sent to Donna Bennett at 2275 Duvall Road, Woodbine 21797.

`Into the Woods'

Glenelg Country School will present "Into the Woods" at 7: 30 p.m. today, tomorrow and Saturday in Mulitz Theater.

Cinderella, Rappunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf are some of the characters.

The play features J. J. Caras and Rachel Caras of Clarksville, Maria Peklo of West Friendship, Alison Ware of Dayton and Cody Dobyns of Highland. Tickets are $8. Information: 410-531-2229, Ext. 2120.

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