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Article Archive >> Community

Weapons of Mass Destruction...My Story

Weapons of Mass Destruction
...My Story
by Gary E. Swartz

Now that the principal theme has been set with the last article, i.e. the consequences of drunk driving, I'd like to express that these articles are not about bitterness, vindictiveness, or looking for sympathy, but rather about justice, fairness, and consideration that should apply to all victims of crimes.
Here's my story...
On a nice warm sunny day, August 2, 2003, I was standing behind my vehicle getting something out of the trunk of my car at my daughter's driveway. Approximately 10 feet from my vehicle were my wife, daughter, four grandchildren, and some friends from church. All of the sudden I was struck by a vehicle driven by a young drunk driver. The driver went across the center line at the entrance of the driveway and crashed into me.
As a result, I lost my right leg above the knee. My left leg was broken in several places, later requiring metal plates to stabilize from the knee down.
With my life on the line, I was able to stay conscious and was aware of everything from the time I was struck until the time I was put under to remove my right leg.
I cannot imagine the pressure and torture my wife must have felt when she was asked to give permission for them to amputate my right leg.
That evening they removed my leg and hoped that the knee would be able to handle a prosthetic. Unfortunately, an infection set in and they had to remove half of the knee--later having to remove the entire knee. These operations were performed during the first four days at shock trauma at University of Maryland. At this point, I was minus my right leg above the knee and rendered non-weight bearing on my left leg for 8-10 weeks.
It was only by the divine intervention, grace, and mercy of God that I am still here. God made it possible for everything to work out the way he planned from the help of a neighbor to slow the bleeding, to the Williamsport Rescue Service quickly responding, to the State Police Medivac flying me to University of Maryland. My faith in God and prayers helped me through this.
On the eleventh day, I was told that I'd have to go to a nursing home for long-term care rehab. I passed the test for short-term rehab, however, by transferring from my hospital bed to a recliner and back again--twice. With the help of my wife and Dr. Mark Yacyk, they transported me from shock trauma to Washington County Hospital for short-term rehab. After my rehab, and correcting a deep vane clot that developed in my amputated leg, I was discharged on September 7, 2003.
I returned home with no handicap accessibility and bound to a wheelchair. I was unable to get inside without help, unable to navigate to the bathroom, unable to enter or exit my home. I was pretty much confined to one room until I was capable of putting weight on my left leg.
My church congregation and my daughters provided meals for the first few months. By mid-October, friends and neighbors constructed a handicap ramp down the front steps.
I received several hours of in-home care and physical therapy weekly until I was released mid-December 2003. The responsibility that fell on my wife's shoulders, and witnessing the accident, caused her to have post-traumatic stress syndrome. She is still being treated today.
As an outpatient at the Martinsburg Veterans Administration Hospital Rehab I was offered home accessibility, a prosthetic leg, and a method of transporting my wheelchair without aid. The VA and their personnel have been extremely helpful.
I was able to attend church services and volunteer work with inmates at the Washington County Detention Center shortly after the first of the year. During this time I had the rewarding opportunity to counsel the young man that ran into me.
Over the past three years this ordeal has cost us thousands with ongoing costs ahead. Our lives have been permanently and drastically changed forever.
Victim Rights
As mentioned in the previous article, I heard nothing concerning my case until I called the States Attorney's office three months later to check the status. They sent me a Victims' Impact Statement form for submittal to the judge prior to the hearing.
At the hearing I heard that the defendant was already on probation and given a one-year maximum sentence at the Washington County Detention Center for the DUI/DWI charge. The one-year maximum sentence for possession was suspended and probation was applied. He attended the alcohol drug program and was allowed work release, serving approximately 9 months.
The defendant had not honored the restitution order placed upon him and had gone missing--now wanted for violation of probation. When found he was placed back in the Washington County Detention Center. The judge for the first case cleaned the slate approximately three months served. The judge who handled my case did the same. The defendant was now a free man with no holds barred. What lesson did the young man learn?
What happened to my victims' rights? What happened to my constitutional rights?
After the hearing I filed a complaint with the Crime Control and Prevention branch of the Governor's office that oversees issues concerning victims' rights and the administration of policies and statues pertaining to victims and witness rights. Seven areas of my rights were violated. I was not satisfied with the results that stated that the States Attorney's Office would, in the future, be more informative and would provide a copy of victims rights under statues, policies, and guidelines currently in place.
Are victims put on the back burner when it comes to the help they really need? If victims are going to receive the assistance they need, there must be enough time and manpower in order to be truly affective.
Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB)
This board is considered a payer of last resort after all other means are exhausted that are paid or due as a result of the criminal act. After notification of my hearing, I submitted a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board that grants financial aid to victims of crimes in the State of Maryland. I received a denial for financial assistance totaling several thousand dollars. I was told that I did not meet the minimum requirement to be granted assistance. The $100,000 insurance proceeds that was not yet settled, exceeded the cap of $45,000 financial aid that could be awarded by CICB. Medicare was entitled $95,000 that they paid out for my medical expenses, which was 80% of the total cost. Twenty percent was passed onto me. At that point, there were no proceeds for me. In fact, $95,000 combined with $33,000 for attorney fees and still outstanding medical bills totaled approximately $140,000 not counting ongoing expenses.
I filed suit against CICB for not giving financial assistance when it was needed since they had a right to recover from any insurance proceeds if there were any left for the victim. It also raised a question as to whether financial assistance would be granted if the victim received insurance proceeds that did not cover the amount lost, i.e. home accessibility, handicap vehicles, therapeutic devices, etc.
I am currently waiting on information from lawmakers to give statistics on annual revenues taken in from purchase/sales of all alcoholic beverages in the State of Maryland and what is allocated from those revenues.
If there are any questions you can write me at garytherep1@verizon.net.

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