No place for paralyzed, seriously ill teacher at local hospital

A former kindergarten teacher with a debilitating disease is being forced to leave from a local hospital.

A former kindergarten teacher with a debilitating disease is being forced to leave from a local hospital.
She's paralyzed, with several complex health problems.

Now her caretakers say she'll soon have nowhere to live out the remaining few years of her life.

From vibrant kindergarten teacher at age 30, to bed-bound quadriplegic at age 32.

"She would go out dancing with us, she took care of her nieces. She lived a very normal life," said Patrick Dolan, Tara's long-time friend and caretaker.

At 13, doctors told Tara Hegger her life would be short. She was diagnosed with Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, a condition that causes tumor growth.

"I have a lot of fight left in my body, and I just want a chance," said Hegger from her hospital room.

Hegger wants chance for rehabilitation and a permanent home.

In the past year Hegger has been moved between more than half a dozen rehabilitation centers and hospitals, because her caretakers say those facilities struggled to meet her complex medical needs.

"They want to pass them on to somebody else.  There aren't that many facilities that have taken up that challenge of offering ventilator care," said Joan Headley, with the International Ventilator Users Network.
 
Taken to Mercy hospital ER for an infection earlier this summer, Hegger's care team says she's now being forced to leave there.

"There's been several letters outlining her discharge date and saying Medicaid isn't going to cover any cost further," said Dolan.

While Mercy hospital couldn't comment specifically on Tara's case, they did send Five on Your Side a statement:

"The role of a hospital with ventilator dependent patients is to stabilize them and prepare them and prepare them to go to the next site of care. whether it's home, a rehabilitation center or even a nursing home," said Laura Richter, mission leader at Mercy Hospital.

WATCH: Mercy Hospital statement to NewsChannel 5

Hegger also can't afford in home care, which can be up to $14,000 a month. So where can she go?

"[Patients] end up with a facility many times far away from home. The care probably isn't always ideal," said Headley.

Today, Tara's future and her chance for recovery remain uncertain.

"I’ve been kicked around and abused and neglected by our medical system and I never thought that could happen but it’s happening to me and I just want a fighting shot to prove what I can do. Thank you for those who continue to pray for me and support me," said Hegger.

"It is unfortunate there are not more organizations available to provide ventilator dependent care in our country. especially in Missouri, where Medicaid is underfunded," said Richter. 

Dolan says Mercy has presented him with two options for Hegger's relocation: she can go to a one star rated facility in Kansas, or another one in Oklahoma. For more information you can visit HelpTara.org

(© 2017 KSDK)


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