2012-05-01 / Front Page

Weekend ‘Rebuilding Together’ Project To Benefit Local Family

by Michael Stanley
Staff Writer
(Staff Photo)

The Poland home of Joe and Holly Henline will be the center of attention during a weekend project spearheaded by Rebuilding Together Owen Putnam. The Poland home of Joe and Holly Henline will be the center of attention during a weekend project spearheaded by Rebuilding Together Owen Putnam. For a former U.S. Army Airborne Ranger and his family, seemingly everything that could go wrong has gone wrong over the course of the past two years. But, thanks to a local volunteer program and Sears’ Heroes at Home Program, Joe Henline’s life will soon be a bit easier.

In December of 2010 the couple faced the difficult decision of ‘putting down’ a family canine companion when Joe’s gun jammed and an unforeseen tragedy struck.

“I took the clip out of it, took the bullets out and I handed him back the clip. He had a hold of the slide of the gun and when he smacked the clip back in, there was still a bullet in the chamber. Since he didn’t have control of the gun, it shot him,” his wife, Holly, explained. “(The bullet) went in between two of his ribs on the right and came out the other side. He was supposed to have a full recovery, but everything that could have gone wrong since then has gone wrong.”

Miraculously, Joe was still coherent upon arrival at Methodist Hospital in In dianapolis, having suffered a direct gunshot wound to his liver.

“He had an allergic reaction to the mesh they put in to hold his organs in place, because of that he has severe muscle spasms that cause his back to concave, which can potentially put him in a wheelchair within a year,” Holly said. “At some point while he went through six surgeries in 16 days at Methodist, he had a stroke, which affected the entire left-hand side of his body and his memory.”

But the former Army Ranger is determined to stay out of a wheelchair, saying he currently walks with a cane.

“He has an organ that is out of place, which is putting pressure on his heart, but they can’t fix it because it’s too big of a risk to put him back on the operating table,” Holly added. “He also had a heart attack and they believe they found cancer in his throat over the weekend, in his esophagus. We can say it’s been one thing after another... every time we cross one hurdle there seem to be five more in the way.”

Unable to take a shower alone, Joe receives help from his wife, but the couple’s current shower is not large enough to accommodate a shower chair, let alone two people. The family also has steps leading to both a front and back porch, with no handicap accessible ramps.

This coming Saturday, April 28, more than 75 volunteers from Rebuilding Together Owen Putnam and Sears’ Heroes at Home Program will complete the handicap accessible ramps, roofing and rehabilitation bathroom work for the family of four. The pair have two children, 15-year-old son, Mason, and 14-year-old daughter, Mahaley.

Holly is originally from Seymour and Joe from Lebanon, meaning neither has family that live close by. Luckily, Holly has a nursing background providing her with the needed knowledge to serve as Joe’s full-time caretaker. He and Holly have been married for the past 14 years.

“It pretty much puts me in the house 24/7 between he and our daughter, she is disabled as well,” Holly said. “It makes the ability to work outside of the home impossible; doctor’s appointments total at least three per week. They say we could have a home health nurse come in and help him, but I didn’t marry him because he was healthy.”

The Henlines will receive a new metal roof, new front and back porch additions, a new dog house and new underpinning for their mobile home on rural Cunot-Cataract Road.

“We had set aside money before his accident to have another baby, but we went through everything we had just to bring him home,” Holly said. “He has PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), so he can’t be left alone.”

Joe served in the Army throughout the ‘70s and was discharged in October of 1979.

“I shot all kinds of guns... if an accident can happen to me, it can happen to anybody,” Joe said. “I can take them apart pretty fast, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an accident and it doesn’t take much. A little bitty bullet changes all kinds of things, so people really need to be careful.”

Prior to his accident, Joe worked as a pipe layer for English Excavating and Plumbing and was accustomed to working 12 to 16 hour days at times. Now, Joe is on a 50-foot restriction from Holly and spends his time playing video games.

“I worked my whole life, but now I can’t do anything,” he said. “You get used to doing something all of the time, and now a lot of times I do nothing, I don’t like that. I do like to go fishing.”

Heroes at Home projects are scheduled to be completed in more than 80 cities across the country. The projects include renovations for veterans who are unable to live in their current home conditions due to injuries or obstacles that threaten their avenue to a safe and accessible home.

“Heroes at Home is not only a program, but an opportunity for us to serve our fellow veterans and address their critical housing needs, which are quite common throughout military households,” Gary A. Officer, president and CEO of Rebuilding Together said. “Our work with Sears allows us to engage with the veteran community and rehabilitate their homes to livable conditions based on their needs. This fall, we continue to impact an increasing amount of lives through the Heroes at Home program.”

Rebuilding Together Owen Putnam (RTOP) is a local chapter of the national organization, “Rebuilding Together,” and serves Owen and Putnam counties. Rebuilding Together focuses on helping the elderly, the disabled, and families with children who are restricted by low-income and need help to make necessary repairs and maintenance to their own homes. RTOP provides these services at no-cost to the homeowners and relies on the generosity of businesses, churches, and individuals to make these projects possible.

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