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Paralyzed Augusta man regains independence through Medicaid program

Walton Options has helped nine local residents

Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013 9:37 PM
Last updated 11:52 PM
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Every time Sandra Johnson would visit her fiancé John Cummings at Augusta Hills nursing home, he would be on a different floor, in a different room, with a different roommate.

John Cummings and Sandra Johnson in their Walton Legacy apartment in Augusta Wednesday afternoon November 27, 2013.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
John Cummings and Sandra Johnson in their Walton Legacy apartment in Augusta Wednesday afternoon November 27, 2013.

Most of the patients with whom Cummings, 53, shared a room were 20 years older. Some suffered from comas, Johnson said.

“When I would go see him, I could see his emotions were down,” she said. “There was no stability in his life. It was unbearable to watch.”

Cummings' caregivers noticed the same of the former painter, who in September 2010 fell off an 18-foot ladder in Atlanta and suffered a severe spinal injury that paralyzed his body and legs.

With the help of his nursing staff and Walton Options, Cummings regained his independence on Oct. 30 as one of nine people with physical or developmental disabilities in the Augusta area to benefit from Medicaid’s “Money Follows the Person” program. The program allows states to pay for long-term support services in a home and community-based setting rather than an institutional setting, said Tiffany Johnston, the executive director of Walton Options.

Cummings’ new home is a two-bedroom Walton Legacy apartment off Deans Bridge Road in south Augusta.

“I wanted to just jump and kick my heels together and shout, ‘What a wonderful feeling!’ when I moved in,” Cummings said. “I could not believe it.”

Today, Cummings can see his 54-year-old fiancée almost daily and together, the 14-year couple can run errands together throughout Augusta through the use of the city’s bus line. The two hope to start planning their wedding next year.

“Having my own home has greatly picked up my quality of life,” Cummings said.

Johnson agreed.

“He is much happier now, no question about it,” she said.

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