Accident Disabled Former Policeman Seeks Grant Help For Home Repairs
by Christopher J. Hirko
(Washington, NJ, USA)
My name is Christopher Hirko. I am a 43-year-old man living with my wife of 24 years, Lori, 48 years old. We have two daughters, Jessica, 22 and Rebecca, 21.
Our daughter Jessica and her 9-month-old daughter Lydia live with us at our house of 21 plus years in Washington, New Jersey.
Our daughter Rebecca is away at school in North Carolina. She is currently a junior at East Carolina University.
Jessica is currently enrolled at Empire Beauty School in Allentown Pennsylvania.
While Jessica is in school we have the financial responsibility for her and our granddaughter.
I was sworn in as a patrol officer of a northwestern New Jersey municipality in January of 1995. On February 22, 1995 I pulled over a pickup truck that I suspected of drunk driving.
When the vehicles stopped, the driver got out of his truck and ran to my cruiser and began to punch at the driver's side window, he then ran back to his truck and drove off.
After a 6 mile pursuit the driver pulled into his driveway, and I took up a position at the bottom of the drive. At this point the driver reversed direction ramming my cruiser's front end.
The impact was so great my vehicle was pushed back a good distance and the truck's bumper was mere inches from my windshield.
As I saw the vehicle coming at me, I braced for the impact. Unknowingly this caused lasting trauma to my neck.
The defendant stepped from his vehicle and again started punching at my windows. At that time I lost consciousness.
Over the next few years the charges were adjudicated and the defendant was found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. During this time period I was attempting to cope with pain in my neck and arms as a result of his actions.
In August of 1998 I underwent surgery for a c-6 c-7 cervical fusion, and I returned back to work in January of 1999.
The defendant sent me a Christmas card with a several page rambling letter trying to explain his actions. After that I attempted to resume regular duties.
Between February and October of 1999 the assailant followed and harassed me. I began experiencing anxiety attacks, and in July of 1999 I had my first panic attack while on vacation.
My condition worsened over the next 3 months. At the same time my neck pain got worse. In October of 1999 I was put on an anti-anxiety medication to help my anxiety and panic attacks.
As per our departmental policy I informed my superior I was on this medication. On October 29, 1999 I was dismissed by the police department.
The department refused to grant me medical pay and I began to slip into a deep depression, and became very paranoid while having anxiety and panic attacks. My wife had to fight to get me my back pay and benefits.
Over the next 3 to 4 years I attempted suicide several times and was hospitalized for 4 to 10 days on each occasion. My condition was diagnosed as PTSD, chronic anxiety and panic disorder, paranoia and suicidal idealization, along with the psychological ailments.
As a result of all this, I was awarded a Medical Disability Retirement, and SSI disability.
I dealt with the chronic pain and numbness, and between 2000 and 2004 my depression became so deep I was treated with intense psychopharmacology and approximately 30 Electric Convulsive Therapy treatments, also known as Electric Shock Therapy.
As a result of this treatment I am left with a 4 to 5 year period of time that I have no memory and bad short-term memory loss.
In 2005 I started coming out of my depression, with the pain getting worse. In 2006 I underwent the implantation of an intrathecal morphine pain pump.
Over the next few years the morphine pump helped control the pain. In March 2009 the pain pump reached its limits and I underwent a Dorsal Cervical Fusion from C-3 to C-7.
Because of the actions of my former employer we did not receive a paycheck for approximately 6 months.
At this time my loving wife stood beside me and borrowed heavily, and refinanced our house on several occasions to pay for medications, mortgage, and daily living expenses, while taking care of two preteen girls, and me.
In 2007 my wife went into kidney failure and was forced to go on dialysis. In 2008 she was fortunate to receive a cadaver transplant.
I still see my Psychiatrist every 6 to 8 weeks, and am on a large amount of medications for both mental and physical conditions.
Between my wife and me, we have to pay between $1500 an $2000 in medication co-pays, not to mention any co-pays for our doctors' visits.
I have been attempting to work since 2006, but each time I start a job, I usually have to resign due to a family or my medical conditions.
In November of 2010 I started to work at Walmart, however the physical activity aggravates or causes mental or physical problems.
Since 2006 I have worked at several different businesses. When I try to work a near full-time position, I am held back and cannot keep up the pace without having a physical or mentally adverse reaction.
I am restricted to only 15 to 20 hours a week. I was awarded my Police and Fire Disability Retirement Pension along with SSI.
We began a kitchen remodel approximately 4 years ago but had to stop a short time into it because of not being able to handle the physical activity needed to do the work.
Our roof is missing some shingles and is in need of replacement as it is 20 plus years old.
We also have an oil burning hot water heat system that is approximately 40 years old and is not very efficient. It is in need of repair or replacement and the cost of the fuel in the wintertime leaves us scrambling to scrape together the money to pay for it.
We are seeking any grants we are eligible for to get these projects completed to make our house more safe, livable, efficient, and marketable for future sale.
We cannot afford to live here much longer because of the property taxes, which have more than quadrupled over the past 20 years.
Also any grant that is available to make our heating system more efficient would be helpful.