GARINGER BOY FACES MORE STRUGGLES

November 12, 2001 11:00 pm
Ethan Garinger ().
Ethan Garinger ().

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

During his short three years, Ethan Garinger has experienced enough trauma to last a lifetime.

When he was only 4 months old, Ethan was trapped in his familys car after it plunged into the Wallowa River one cold night in January 1999. He was trapped inside for nearly 10 minutes before

being rescued.

At first, Ethan appeared to be fully recovered. After some time in hospitals and a bout with pneumonia, he began to progress quickly. By the following summer, he appeared to be a healthy happy infant.

But the childs life did not progress as well as his parents had hoped. When he turned 3 in September, he was not talking or trying to dress himself, although he could walk.

He still doesnt do anything for himself, said Ethans mom, Jennifer, who has five older children at home.

Jennifer said she began to notice the boys lack of progress when he was about 2.

He didnt make any (talking) sounds; he didnt respond to his name, and he didnt respond to spoken instructions, she said. He wasnt communicating in any way.

At first, Jennifer suspected hearing loss, but Ethans hearing is fine. Then the evaluation and the developmental tests began, and about a month ago, an autism screen revealed that Ethan may be autistic.

Jennifer does not know why or how her child developed autism.

With autism, its hard to tell if it came from the accident or if he was born that way, she said. There are indicators of traumatic brain injury. He was without oxygen for 10 minutes.

Ethan isnt the only family member struggling with physical problems. His dad, J.P. Garinger, a diabetic most of his life, suffered a stroke some time ago and has been recovering since. Because of the stroke and complications from diabetes, J.P. cannot work full time, but he has not yet been approved for disability benefits. Jennifer, who works only part time, is the sole source of the family income.

The familys medical costs are covered under the Oregon Health Plan, but much of Ethans requirements for therapy arent. Ethan has been going regularly to a child development specialist, but those costs, about $4,000, arent covered by insurance.

To help pay for the specialist and other expenses, some of the Garingers friends have organized a hog raffle. Tickets are $1 each or six for $5 and are available at the customer service counter at Shop-N-Kart, S&G Machinery, Pendleton Grain Growers, Les Schwab, Bronson Lumber and Blue Mountain Auto.

The winning ticket will be drawn Nov. 21. Funds given through the raffle are deposited in a custodial account through Solomon Smith Barney at the Pioneer Bank building, 1215 Adams Ave. Funds are specifically earmarked for Ethan Garinger.

Jennifer Garinger said she does not know what Ethans future holds. She said hes usually in a pretty good mood, but he sleeps only three or four hours a night. Mornings are difficult, because he does not like to get a bath, have his hair combed or put on his socks.

She said the whole Garinger family is helping Ethan.

Its a family effort to make Ethan get well, she said.