By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Caring for K.K. - A Statesboro grandmother needs help to get Habitat for Humanity home
021908 SIMPKINS 03web
Jessie checks on Kaimel, whom she calls K.K., while letting him get some sunlight near a window in her rented home. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Walk into Jessie Simpkins' rented home in Statesboro, and you will find the decor a little unusual. Where most people might have ornamental pieces or decorative furniture, Simpkins has shelves of medical supplies.
    They are in labeled boxes, stacked neatly above rows of bottled spring water. Beside them, where a recliner might sit in another home, is a special wheel chair parked beside a lift.
    They belong to Kaimel, Simpkins' grandson. He is 22, and severely and permanently disabled. Simpkins is his care giver.
    Kaimel, known affectionately as K.K., is Simpkins' joy, her reason for being. But he is also the reason it is difficult for her to fulfill obligations that could make her dream of owning a home come true.
    Habitat for Humanity has approved her for a new home, she said. But, one of the requirements is that Simpkins put in "sweat equity," meaning she must perform 300 hours of labor in building her home as well as helping with other homes.
    That's not so much the problem, except for one thing: Simpkins can't leave K.K. alone with unqualified help, and she is having difficulty in obtaining and keeping assistance with meeting her grandson's needs.
    Even with help, transferring K.K. from his bed to a wheelchair is a daunting task. Unable to do anything for himself, K.K. must be bathed and dressed, fed through a tube, his tracheotomy opening cleaned – and then comes the hard part.
    The lift is wheeled into the crowded bedroom, filled with more shelving for medicines, medical needs and supplies, as well as a hospital bed. When Simpkins has help it makes things easier, but not much.
    During the transfer, a large piece of canvas cloth is placed underneath K.K., meaning he must be rolled over while the cloth is situated beneath him. Then, the other side.
    After it is in place, hooks on the lift are fitted into eyelets in the cloth, and K.K. is hoisted by the lift from his bed to the chair. The cloth is left underneath him so transferring him back to bed is possible.
    Simpkins doesn't give details about the accident that rendered her grandson permanently disabled at 18 months of age, but said his skull was cracked in six places. A tangle of scars mark his skull, and K.K. is unable to talk.
    But he recognizes his grandmother, and is responsive to others, Simpkins said. He did not smile or speak, but made eye contact with visitors as Simpkins and an aide worked over him.
    His condition is termed "traumatic encephalopathy," and K.K. suffers from all kinds of seizures, she said. "The older he gets, the worse the seizures."
    K.K.'s mother suffers from mental illness and addiction issues, and Simpkins has had her grandson since birth, she said.
    Life spent caring for an invalid is difficult, but her spirituality and relationship with God keep her  going, Simpkins said. But she needs help and doesn't know where to get it. A series of issues with several different health care agencies has made it hard for her to get away, especially for church services and programs, which are important to her. And as a church official, Simpkins has responsibilities that are difficult when she cannot get qualified help that can be left alone with K.K.
    According to Dodi Dunn, member of the Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, approval of applicants for a Habitat home include "the ability to pay, need and sweat equity."
    Potential homeowners must perform 300 hours of sweat equity, but they can get volunteers to perform part of that obligation. A volunteer working under a potential homeowner's name will work two hours, but credit for only one hour is given the home owner, she said.
    Simpkins doesn't mind the work, since ability is taken under consideration, but help with her grandson isn't the only issue.
    Simpkins, 66, suffers from "glaucoma, pinched nerves, an aneurysm, heart condition, gastritis, chronic arthritis and diabetes," she said.
    A nursing assistant comes in every week for 11 hours to help Simpkins with her personal needs, but only for her, not K. K., she said.
    Originally from New York, Simpkins was visiting a friend who lived in Statesboro and "I fell in love with this quaint little town," she said. Her roots are in Denmark, S.C., so the South was familiar to her.
    But problems began arising concerning K.K.'s care, and having steady help available seemed impossible, she said.
    With no reliable family, "I don't have back up," she said. "I don't have a support group. I don't have anybody."
    Most health care agencies are on strict schedules, so when Simpkins finds herself late getting home for some reason, it is a problem because she has no one to relieve the health care worker.
    Simpkins finds herself in a dilemma where she doesn't know where to turn.
    Situating K. K. beside a sunny window, she sits at a table where her Bible is open. A friend from church has finished helping her with K.K. and other chores, and the aide who helps Simpkins with her personal needs hums as she works in the kitchen.
    The doorbell rings and Simpkins' pastor comes in. Maybe health care assistance is an issue, but Simpkins has plenty of spiritual support.
    "The Lord will provide," she said.
    Anyone who has information that can help Simpkins, or who would like to volunteer to help with caring for K. K. or with sweat equity hours for the Habitat for Humanity house, is asked to contact Simpkins at 764-8078.
    "We sure do need a house of our own," she said. "And I do need help."
Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter