Disabled Vietnam War Veteran Seeks Grant Money For Home Repairs
by Stephen Prender
(Mount Wolf, PA, USA)
I am a U.S. Army Veteran (1967-1970), serving in Vietnam from 1968-1969.
I am disabled, divorced and live independently. I have two sisters that live in Maryland, where I am from.
In the summer of 2007 I was complaining to my doctor that my right hand and forearm was constantly numb and tingling.
The doctor prescribed Celebrex and said the numbness will go away.
After taking 3 refills of Celebrex, the numbness/tingling sensation was still there, and in fact had spread to my upper right arm and my right leg.
I also developed a very unstable gait. My balance for walking and standing were gone.
I fell down the stairs at my apartment building while trying to exit and wound up flat on my back in the parking garage.
I had to crawl to my car because I did not have the strength to stand on my own.
Also going to work I fell down escalators and on the commuter trains numerous times placing the other pedestrians and riders in harms way.
In January 2008, a friend recommended Dr. Cesar Rudski of George Washington Hospital.
Even though he was a Gastroenterologist, he was a good doctor and sent me in the right sectors to find out what wrong.
He examined me and had blood work submitted for testing and he acknowledged that a problem was apparent.
He was not sure whether it was orthopedic or neurological in nature. So he sent me to Dr. Peter Levine, Orthopedic Surgeon, who physically examined me and took x-rays of my knees, shoulders and neck area.
Dr. Levine said x-rays of knees and shoulders looked normal, however my neck didn't look right.
So still being in January 2008, Dr. Levine sent me to Dr. Philip Pulaski, Neurologist, who performed a physical examination.
He believed my condition to be neurological; however tests would have to be performed to determine what was wrong.
EMG, Cartoid Ultrasound, MRI- Spine, MRI- Brain, MRI- Lower Lumbar, Evoked Response, Spinal Tap and blood work to include HIV and B-12 deficiency was submitted for testing.
All of these tests were completed between January 2008 and March 31, 2008. He stated that the test results created more questions than answers.
He said I could have: MS, Peripheral Neuropathy, Spinal Stenosis, Demyelization, previous stroke. He was not sure.
So Dr. Pulaski sent me to Dr Edward Aulisi, of the Washington Brain and Spine Institute for a second opinion.
On May 15, 2008 he physically examined me and stated that he was pretty sure my problems were neurological but he would need a fresh set of MRIs done of my spine and brain as soon as possible.
The new MRIs were done on May 23, 2008. At the follow-up appointment on July 15, 2008 the MRI results were discussed and the Doctor stated there was nothing he could do.
He also said that I had had a stroke and I also suffered from other neurological manifestations and must see a neurologist.
I went to see my primary care physician, Dr. Vicken Poochikian, whom I had not seen in over a year and he asked how long had I been walking this way. I told him this long story.
So he told me to go see Dr. Norman Luban, Neurologist. So on August 14, 2008 I went to see him.
He performed the most extensive physical examination to date and stated that in his opinion I had MS but we would need to do a spinal tap to confirm this and also I should get an eye exam performed.
I went and had my eyes checked and the doctor stated that he could not improve my vision from the glasses I wear now and I could possibly get cataracts in the years to follow.
I also went to the Washington Hospital Center and had the test done and made a follow-up appointment with Dr. Luban on September 11, 2008.
He stated at the follow up that he was very puzzled by my case. He suggested that I make a second opinion appointment with either the University of Maryland Medical Center or John Hopkins in Baltimore so we could find out what is wrong with me.
On October 15, 2008 I made my appointment at John Hopkins and was extensively examined by one of Dr.Venkatesan's colleagues for over 3 hours.
He stated that he and Dr Venkatesan would look at my past MRIs, confer on this exam and return and let me know in a half an hour what was wrong with me.
Dr. Venkatesan and his colleague returned and he himself did some poking around. Then he sat down with me and stated he didn't know what was wrong with me.
He said he needed to get more blood work done (6 vials) and take pictures of my retinas.
He also stated that my case was puzzling and needed to be placed at the forefront at a weekly consortium of John Hopkins Neurologists and MS Specialists.
He gave me a business card and said to call him in 3 weeks and he would let me know where we are going from here.
Dr Luban called me on February 3, 2009 and we talked about how I was doing and my conversation with Dr. Venkatesan.
We decided for me to see him (Luban) and the other neurologist in his office on February 10, 2009 at 1:15 pm to discuss on my future medical treatments.
On February 4, 2009 I contacted the NIH undiagnosed diseases section and downloaded the paperwork to consider being accepted in their program (Dr. Luban stated this was not for me).
On February 10, 2009 Dr Luban and his associates decided that retesting at John Hopkins would probably yield the same results as the previous tests.
On February 26, 2009 Dr. Luban told me that I could no longer work. I was an endangerment to myself, as well as the general public.
On an April 2, 2009 a letter from Dr. Luban stated that the diagnosis is MS (Primary Progressive).
I lost my job due to my disability on February 26, 2009. I lost healthcare insurance on June 1, 2009.
With no insurance I could no longer afford my doctors or medicine. I went over one year without my prescriptions.
On March 31, 2010 I attended my initial PCP (Dr. Stengal) appointment at York VA Med Clinic.
I gave Dr. Stengal 92 pages of medical history, which went pretty much unread and was told to give them to the Neurologist in Lebanon at my June 21, 2010 appointment (they went unread again).
To this day, I have gone through over 40 medical procedures and over 80 doctor appointments from January 2008 up to May 2011.
Most Neurologists I have seen remain puzzled and perplexed as to my medical condition. With an unknown diagnosis I was awarded Social Security Disability in September of 2009.
I am a prisoner in my home due to my physical challenges. I can walk with the aid of a cane or walker; however going up and down stairs is a challenge and requires my complete physical and mental attention.
I have a constant fear of falling because I am unable to pull myself up and I could possibly do myself bodily harm.
I believe I require an access ramp (which I am unable to afford) so I will be able to exit and enter my home safely.
I also need a solid core shed door (which I am unable to afford) to protect and secure my stored possessions.
My rear door to my home needs to be replaced (which I am unable to afford) because it is rotten. When it rains water goes through the door and has now rotted the floor and threshold of the doorway.
I need an inspection of my home (which I am unable to afford or perform) to assess any hidden problems that I am not aware of.
I have currently filed (VA Form 21-256) an Agent Orange Claim which is still pending.
I live strictly on Disability income from Social Security, which as one knows, is most of the time, barely enough to get by on.
I have more money going out than coming in.
My credit has been ruined because I had no money to pay my credit cards.
York County in Pennsylvania allows me $16 per month in Food Stamps and has declined all health care benefits or financial assistance.
According to SSA, I am not Medicare eligible until 2 years after SSDI award.
LIHEAP has awarded me $445 a year towards my winter heat expense (over $600).
I have contacted churches, Veteran Organizations and civic organizations for help but it seems due to the economy that the assistance is not there.
I am at a late stage in life and desperate for some help with home repairs so I can be safe and secure.
I am not financially or physically able to bring my home to a safe living level.
I need a grant of at least $5,000 for home repairs.
If the Veterans Administration denies my Agent Orange Claim I will require legal assistance.
Come August 1, 2011 I will become Medicare eligible which will result in an additional $300 per month in medical expenses not including prescriptions.