David Woodhouse Foundation

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 14, 2006

Family seeks community’s help

By Deborah Goodwin

The Selma Times-Journal

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The one wish for most expectant parents is a healthy baby.

When the child turns 18, one would be looking forward to their baby leaving the nest to live life on their own.

For Jamie Suthard, the chance to see her son live past 18 almost didn’t happen.

On Aug. 29, 2003, David Woodhouse was in a near fatal accident that left him in a vegetative state.

According to his stepfather Ken, David was “hit t-bone by a pickup truck” that left him with brain damage and internal injuries.

David was airlifted from Vaughan Regional Medical Center in Selma to UAB Hospital in Birmingham where he stayed from Aug. 29 to Oct. 21, 2003 in the Neurological and Trauma Intensive Care Units.

He was then sent home.

“You’re gonna have to either take him home or put him in the nursing home. There’s nothing else we can do for him,” Ken said of David’s release from the hospital.

Jamie, who was working as a medical assistant, had to quit her job in order to stay home with her son, who needed round-the-clock care.

“This is my baby. This is my only baby,” Jamie said.

The Suthards were provided with all of the medical items David would need to live at home such as a hospital bed, liquid nutrients – because he had a feeding tube – lubricants for his skin and other aids.

Jamie had to undergo some training to learn how to clean David’s trach tube, change him, move him and many other tasks.

Jamie said although she had worked in the medical field, it was difficult to see her son in such a state. She had to put on her “nurse face” to care for him, then go in another room and cry as “Mom.”

They had to be put on a waiting list to get a home health nurse and finally got one after seven months. The nurse comes in for five hours each day to assist Jamie – who is a tiny woman – with lifting David, giving him his morning bath, meds and breakfast. But after that, Jamie’s on her own with him until Ken comes home or a friend or family member stops by to help.

“It’s an around-the-clock job,” Ken said.

It has been three years since the accident and David turned 21 this year.

He is no longer considered a “child.” His insurance coverage has changed.

According to the Suthards, Medicaid covered many of David’s expenses and supplies, which meant a great deal to them since Ken – a contractor – is the only one working.

“When he turned 21, he went from Medicaid to Medicare,” Jamie said.

“Medicare does not cover a lot of his medical needs that Medicaid did.”

What that means for them is more out-of-pocket expenses, which they can’t afford.

“We’re still sitting where we were a year ago as far as income,” Jamie said.

“We live hand to mouth,” Ken said.

Ken and Jamie both agreed that without the help of the community, they could not make it.

“Without the community helping us, they don’t realize that we’d be really, really struggling,” Jamie said with tears in her eyes.

Buddy Perkins set up

a fund in David’s name at Wachovia Bank, but it is nearly depleted.

“It’s only because of the foundation (and) the people that (are) helping us, allowing us to be able to keep him in the house.

Because if it gets to where we can’t afford it, what (are) our options?” Jamie said.

The Suthards had a van donated to them and it’s the only way they are able to transport David because it has a lift, but it needs to be replaced and it alone costs $8,000.

“The lift’s about shot,” Ken said.

“We’re kind of fixing it up as we go along.”

The couple is also looking to sell their 4200 sq. ft., 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath home and move into a smaller house because of the utility expenses.

“We’ve been trying to get out of this house because it’s expensive to live in this house,” Jamie said.

“To keep this house heated for him in the winter, to keep it cool for him. You see we don’t have the air on now.”

David’s bedroom is the living room because it’s the only downstairs room that is large enough for his bed.

The half bath is the only one downstairs, so Jamie, or the nurse, has to bathe him in the living room because his wheelchair can’t fit through the doorway and if it could, it’s just to small of a space to maneuver him in.

Jamie and Ken both expressed how thankful they were to all of the people who have reached out to help them. When David’s physical therapists said they had done all they could for him, the YMCA of Selma reached out to help him with water therapy at the old location on Broad Street and are still aiding him at the new location.

“They’ve been really good with him,” Ken said.

“Big ups to the Y,” he said laughing.

“I enjoy it,” says David.

David was not expected to be able to talk or have movement, but he has made progress with his speech and mobility.

His speech is slurred so Jamie serves as his interpreter.

And he has some movement on his left side.

“When he started waking up from vegetative, it was like he reborn before my eyes,” Jamie said.