A Winnipeg man who recently had parts of both of his legs amputated is beyond frustrated with delays in the help and services offered to Manitobans with disabilities.

A Winnipeg man who recently had parts of both of his legs amputated is beyond frustrated with delays in the help and services offered to Manitobans with disabilities.

Jeff Carpenter, 50, worked as a welder before he was diagnosed with flesh-eating disease in 2016, which eventually led to his left leg being amputated above the knee in December 2020.

"When it first happened with my first leg, I went to work like every other day. On a Thursday night I went to bed and I woke up Friday morning and my foot was the size of a football," he told the Free Press recently.

He made good with crutches, but the independent outdoorsman and grandfather hasn’t been able to work — going from making $100,000 a year to $1,000 a month on disability, he said.

"Good thing I’ve got a good wife," he said.

<p>Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press</p><p>‘It feels like I’m unimportant,’ says Jeff Carpenter, who is awaiting occupational therapy after partial amputations of both legs. ‘I’m frustrated with everybody.’</p>

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press

‘It feels like I’m unimportant,’ says Jeff Carpenter, who is awaiting occupational therapy after partial amputations of both legs. ‘I’m frustrated with everybody.’

After visiting with specialists, he discovered he has Buerger’s Disease and an autoimmune disease, hindering his ability to heal. An infection and blood clot on his right foot led to a partial amputation in February this year.

That’s when he was told it would take at least 21 weeks to get an occupational therapist through the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s community therapy services.

"It feels like I’m unimportant. What was I supposed to do, stay in the hospital for 21 weeks?" he said. "I’m frustrated with everybody."

The Free Press’s request for comment was initially sent to the WRHA, but it was passed to provincial Shared Health.

A Shared Health spokesperson said Monday privacy legislation prevents them from commenting on specific cases, but noted outpatient rehabilitation services have been impacted by COVID-19, including staff redeployments during increased pandemic-related demand.

The spokesperson noted wait times have also been exacerbated by supply-chain issues. Staff are now returning to usual duties, which the spokesperson said will allow caseloads to return to "more normal" levels.

<p>Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press</p><p>Jeff Carpenter was told the wait for an occupational therapist would be 21 weeks. </p>

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press

Jeff Carpenter was told the wait for an occupational therapist would be 21 weeks.

In the meantime, Carpenter’s had to do minor renovations to his East Elmwood home — including knocking out a sink so he can use the washroom — rent a ramp for $400 a month to get in his home’s door and source his own wheelchair at Value Village. He still needs to widen his doorways and get hold of a hospital bed, among other necessary changes.

"I try to get information; I can’t get any, because nobody has a clue what’s going on in the first place," he said.

Carpenter said his home-care nurse has been more helpful than the health authority itself.

"It’s not the home-care nurse’s responsibility. She’s just here to dress my wounds. It’s not up to her to find out who I’m supposed to call, give me applications — she’s been my lifesaver, tell you the truth," Carpenter said.

Now, he’s unable to do the things around the house and yard he normally would, having to rely on his wife, Charissa.

Friends, including his neighbours, have started to raise money to help the Carpenters with the massive expenses that come with being a new wheelchair user — they aim to raise up to $50,000.

As of Monday, their GoFundMe had raised just over $2,500.

erik.pindera@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @erik_pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera
Reporter

Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.