Stories That Matter
Keep Trucking and Don't Give Up
As an over the road truck driver in Oregon for 33 years, Gary’s life was spent on the road. He and his Dachshund, Penny, traveled to all 48 continental states hauling meat and other products. He worked hard to raise a family and provided for them through his trucking business.
Then, in the blink of an eye, Gary’s life took a detour. He went through a divorce; he lost his job, and then had to have knee surgery.“My philosophy in life is plain and simple: don’t give up. No matter how difficult it was to learn to walk again, I knew it was only temporary,” said Gary about his rehabilitation.
Life started over for Gary a few years ago in the Ozarks, but despite his positive attitude, life seemed to knock him down once again. When fuel prices climbed and hauling contracts dropped, Gary struggled to keep his business rolling and eventually lost his truck. “That truck was the pride of my life, my future, my retirement,” he said.
Then, a final roadblock that would keep him from returning to trucking came into view: a 40 year old knee injury would require surgery which led to doctors discovering he has diabetes. “When I lost my business, I was down in the dumps and didn’t give a hoot about anything,” said Gary, “but, that just wasn’t the real me.”
When his other knee needed surgery and his doctors said he’d need to be on complete bed rest, Gary faced a difficult decision. You see, Gary had no family support or anyone to help take care of him. Gary was forced to go into a nursing facility. “I never thought complications from my surgery would force me to stay in a nursing home for a year and half.”
During that year and a half, Gary had four additional knee surgeries and fought the antibiotic-resistant infection, M.R.S.A. that nearly took one of his legs. “Everyone was afraid I wouldn’t make it if I moved out of the rest home. I never gave up, you just can’t give up when life knocks you down,” said Gary about his desire to move out on his own again.
“I taught myself how to walk again in the nursing home. The staff there was great, but the system seemed to want to keep me there forever,” remembers Gary about the nursing home. “I did a lot of praying and God answered those prayers by sending me friends I met through physical therapy, church and the Southwest Center for Independent Living (SCIL).”
“Things began to turn around once I saw that I wasn’t that bad off. SCIL got me out to Social Club and Day at the Range. Meeting with the SCIL Disability Advocates helped me with everything, they were angels,” said Gary about the assistance he received to move
out of the nursing home and into his own home. “The best day of my life, was when I walked out of that place on crutches and I haven’t looked back,” Gary says proudly.
Disability Advocates assisted Gary in applying for a Money Follows the Person grant which helps people with disabilities on Medicaid move from institutional or nursing home settings back into a home or apartment in the community. The grant funds startup costs like rental deposits, household items, furniture, assistive devices and groceries that a person on limited income would find impossible to afford.
SCIL’s Disability Advocates further assist persons receiving the MFP grant by identifying accessible, convenient, and affordable housing. They provide information on transportation, home and community based services, and other resources to successfully face challenges once they’re on their own. After six months living on his own, Gary can now walk without the use of assistive devices like a walker or wheelchair. His new home allows him the freedom to live on his own and the support he receives from home and community based programs like SCIL In-Home Services and Consumer Directed Services assists with housekeeping, shopping, and laundry.
When you ask Gary what’s next in life, he replies with a big smile on his face, “I met my fiancée Connie at church and we will soon start our new life together, with Penny. Life is getting better all of the time and I couldn’t have done it without SCIL.”
If you have questions about transitioning or would like to donate household items or cash to assist a person with disabilities, please contact us at 417-886-1188. For more information visit Southwest Center for Independent Living transitions and de-institutionalization page.