Jeff Johnson is in pain everyday. Severe complications from Lyme Disease have wreaked havoc on his joints and muscles so much that most days he can't get around his house. For a man who prided himself on always providing for his family this new way of life presents him with daily struggles. "When you can't do anything that's when you appreciate basic things the most. DRS's Home Services program helped me start to get my life and dignity back. How do you put a price on dignity?"
Jeff was living the American Dream. He was married, had grown children, and worked out of his home so that he was available to help his wife, who has multiple disabilities. After returning from a vacation in Wisconsin, Jeff developed an "unusual" rash that quickly went away. Within two weeks he began experiencing a stiff neck. A week later he couldn't roll over in bed. "It was very scary, I had no idea what was happening." Within three weeks he went from working and taking care of his family to experiencing extreme pain and not really being able to move around. "I thought I was going to die. We all did. This experience changed my life forever." Unfortunately for Jeff, the only accessible restroom was on the second floor. This limited his ability to be close to his family and leave his home.
Jeff then began receiving hospice services which, in addition to assisting terminal patients, also assists individuals who are unable to leave their home to access medical care. The illness began to take its toll in more emotional ways for the family. Jeff's wife Julia reported, "I watched him struggle to move around. He would have to call friends to help lift him and scoot him down the stairs to the family room and it just crushed me. I felt helpless. He was always there for us. I kept thinking, I want to do no less for him than what he has for us." His daughter Jesse had just started a new job and was constantly worried. "She thought about how much help both Jeff and I now needed" says Julia. But then came the first "angel." The "angel" was a co-worker of Jesse's, who referred her to The Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services.
The DRS Home Service Program in Sterling moved quickly to assign Jeff a caseworker, Nikki Galvan, who Julia refers to as "Angel 2." Nikki assisted Jesse in becoming a Personal Assistant for Jeff, and by doing so, removed a "great deal of stress and worry." While there, Nikki noted the need for a ramp and a stair lift so that Jeff could readily move throughout his home and have access to medical treatment. Nikki completed necessary paperwork and both were installed.
Julie tearfully recalls the first time Jeff used the chair lift. "Jeff was secured and rode down the stairs by himself. He came downstairs and went straight to "his" kitchen table, to sit again with his family; something that hadn't happened for a long time. Everyone was emotional including Jeff." Jeff states, "The Home Services Program helped me and my family be together again. It may not seem like much but sitting with my family for dinner made it feel like I was providing for them. They gave me back my dignity. How can you put a price on that?"
Jeff doesn't look too much in the future. "I've learned to stay in the present. What was, was. The here and now is what's important. I'm thankful today for being with my family and getting around much better. I owe so much to the DRS Home Services Program."
For more information about services that assist people with disabilities to live independently, see the Home Services Program.
To learn more, call 1-877-761-9780 Voice, 1-866-264-2149 TTY, (312) 957-4881 VP, or read about DRS's Services. Refer yourself or someone else for services using the online Rehabilitation Services Web Referral.