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Quadriplegic Dependent on Ventilator Begins One-Year Experiment at Home

December 11, 1990

JONESBORO, Ga. (AP) _ Jenny Langley already has received the only Christmas present she wants this year.

On Monday, Ms. Langley moved out of a hospital and into her own home.

Left paralyzed and dependent on a ventilator from two accidents, Ms. Langley, 27, has begun a one-year experiment to test whether a ventilator- dependent quadriplegic can live outside an institution successfully and economically.

″I’m so happy to be here. It’s going to be a great Christmas,″ said Ms. Langley.

With a $65,000 grant from the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta, Ms. Langley wants to show state officials they could save money by providing quadriplegics with independent care at home rather than paying to keep them in nursing homes or hospitals.

The Georgia Department of Medical Assistance for the first time next year will seek funds to allow quadriplegics to live at home rather than in an institution. Six states - Oregon, Maine, Illinois, California, Minnesota and Rhode Island - offer funding for disabled people who choose to live at home, Shepherd officials said.

Deputy Commissioner Russell Toal said the medical assistance department is asking for $584,000 for fiscal year 1992 to begin an independent care program for 24 quadriplegics for six months.

″It’s something that’s been needed for a long time,″ Toal said. ″I think we need to give them the opportunity to live on their own.″

A 1976 diving accident left Ms. Langley paralyzed from the waist down at age 14. Ten years later, an auto accident paralyzed her from the neck down and made her dependent on a ventilator.

Ms. Langley’s parents went broke trying to care for her. Their Yatesville home was sold on the auction block in July to satisfy an unpaid bank loan. Ms. Langley was admitted to Shepherd this summer with respiratory problems, and she was planning to live in a $675-a-day South Carolina nursing home when she recovered.

″We’re really excited about this situation for Jenny. It’s so much better than the other placements we’ve had to do,″ said Shepherd resource director Leigh VanderEls.

Ms. Langley has a $125-a-day budget with which she’ll pay for rent, utilities, food and part-time attendants. Sheryl Langley, Jenny’s 33-year-old sister, and her two daughters will live with Jenny in the three-bedroom, $750- a-month brick house about 30 minutes south of Atlanta.

″I don’t know what I would do if I had to live in a nursing home,″ Jenny Langley said. ″People who have their minds don’t deserve to just be put away. They have a right to live.″

Quadriplegic Larry McAfee, a 34-year-old Atlanta resident who waged a highly publicized court fight last year to win the right to shut off his life- sustaining respirator, said he is inspired by Ms. Langley’s move.

″Tell her I said good luck. It’s fantastic,″ said McAfee, who remains on a respirator and plans to move in January from an Atlanta hospital into an Augusta personal-care home with two or three other quadriplegics.

McAfee has lived in several hospitals or nursing homes since a 1985 motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the neck down.

″Anytime you can get away from an institutional setting, it’s more stimulating. It allows you the freedom to live,″ he said.

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