Ray Berthold is the latest grant recipient from the Joseph Groh Foundation. Berthold got his start in the construction trades working part time for Castle Ridge Contracting in Huntington, New York, while attending high school. He began working full time for them following his graduation, learning all phases of carpentry. After five years, Berthold opened his own construction business, which he led for the next three years. His career then led him to another contracting firm, where he became involved in estimating, negotiating, and inspecting construction projects. By this time he had successfully completed three specialty courses in construction at a local state university. Berthold married, and in March of 2014, his daughter was born.

On June 28, 2014, Berthold woke up unable to move from the waist down. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a spinal epidural abscess. A staph infection had settled on his spinal cord, causing compression and an inability to move. Emergency surgery followed where the muscles surrounding the spinal cord were cut, and the abscess was removed along with spinal bone. The operation left him paralyzed from the waist down. Since that time, Ray has been undergoing physical and occupational therapy and he is learning how to live independently in a wheelchair, working hard to regain strength in his lower extremities.

The Joseph Groh Foundation was contacted by Berthold in September and was able to grant his request for a power-assist device for his manual wheelchair. The Smart Drive device enables Berthold to navigate steep slopes, across thick grass, and over rough carpet. The device is battery-operated and can function for several days on a single charge. Weighing only 11 pounds, the device is simple to put on and take off, as well as extremely easy to use.

Publication date: 12/8/2014

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