August 27, 2008
Oak Grove man goes to hospital for surgery and winds up homeless
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News
Scottie Douglas went to the hospital for his umpteenth surgery and wound up homeless.
Yet the man who has lived his whole life without the use of his legs is still counting his blessings.
He believes the July 10 hospital visit saved him from an early morning fire that destroyed the Oak Grove home he shared with his brother, mother and stepfather.
Flames likely began in an attic, which could have short-circuited the ceiling track system that lifts the 140-pounder into his wheelchair. “The first thing that came to my mind is how blessed we were that we weren’t there,” said his mom, Linda Ladner.
“We had a couple of escape plans, but who knows if we would have had time to put the plan into effect,” Douglas said. “I probably would have been caught in the fire.”
The loss of his home is just the latest hurdle Douglas has overcome since he was born paralyzed from the waist down by the birth defect known as spina bifida. Doctors first predicted that he wouldn’t live past age 3. And he has undergone about 75 surgeries in his 36 years, including the amputation of both legs about nine years ago.
“Scottie was always very determined that nothing was going to beat him,” said his mom. “I fought for him to be mainstreamed in school, and he was the first one to graduate from Hattiesburg High School in a wheelchair.”
What pulled him through is a mindset that is unrelentingly upbeat. “He doesn’t get down,” Ladner said. “He keeps me happy.”
To recoup from his most recent surgery, Douglas transferred to Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson, where he inspired staff and fellow patients with his hard work and good humor.
“Everybody thought he was amazing because he could do so much for himself and he never complained,” said occupational therapist Bridgett Pelts.
“His attitude was: OK, others have it worse than I do,” said case manager Diane Kersh. “He just had a happy heart and a beautiful smile.”
Douglas said he doesn’t see his physical condition as a challenge. “It’s just the way it has always been. I’ve never known anything different.”
Such pragmatism has served Douglas well, particularly when it comes to dealing with difficult medical decisions. He chose to have his legs amputated, and he calls the decision “the best thing I’ve ever done.” “My bones had gotten so brittle that they just kept breaking all the time,” he said. “I practically lived in casts.”
Now, Douglas is able to move around better and enjoy his hobbies. But it may take awhile before he returns to his favorite pursuits. The fire consumed the extensive sports card collection that Douglas had been gathering since age 10. “I had a lot of Brett Favre, a lot of New Orleans Saints stuff and even some Archie Manning,” he said. “I’ve been a fan of the Saints since 1980.”
“That’s not going to be covered by insurance,” laments Ladner, who also is mourning the destruction of family photos and her quilting collection. “Being a quilter, I probably had 40 quilts, plus wall hangings, about 6,000 yards of fabric and my sewing machines.”
Still, despite their losses, mother and son were finding cause for optimism as they readied to leave Methodist Rehab. Friends had provided clothing, started a fund-raising drive and helped the family find a rental house in Petal. And hospital staff had fitted Douglas with a power wheelchair that will make it easier to navigate in his new surroundings.
“I’m waiting to see what comes next,” said Douglas with a wry grin. “It has got to get better.”
A fund-raising account for the Ladner family has been established at The First, ANBA in Oak Grove. Mail donations to Linda Ladner Benefit Account, c/o The First, ANBA, P.O. Box 15549, Hattiesburg, MS, 39404. Donations also will be accepted at The First branches in South Mississippi. Call 601-268-8998 for the branch nearest you.
Bridgett Pelts, an occupational therapist at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson, shares a light moment with Scottie Douglas as he works to regain his strength following a July surgery. Despite a recent run of bad luck, Douglas never complained, said Pelts.
While his family worked to ready a new place to live, Scottie Douglas spent his days giving it his all in the therapy gym at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson.