Wednesday, February 20 2013, 05:51 PM EST
Gunshot Victim Making a Difference at Life Care Center of Red Bank
Soddy-Daisy resident Jerry Caminiti has been through more drama than most people would dream possible.
It all started when Caminiti was 20 years old. On Oct. 24, 1980, he was walking to his friend’s house when he heard a voice suddenly ask him a haunting question:
“How would you like to be shot?”
A young man pulled the trigger of a .32-caiber derringer, right in Caminiti’s gut.
Caminiti was lucky to survive the encounter. The shot severed his aorta in half, took 85 percent of his pancreas, half a kidney, half of his liver, shattered his gall bladder and appendix and left him paralyzed from the waist down.
“When a .32 hollow point hits, it doesn’t just go through,” explained Denise Stockburger, Caminiti’s sister (pictured above). “It explodes on impact.”
Caminiti was in the hospital for more than seven months, during which time he went through more than 485 units of blood.
“I remember them telling me I was paralyzed,” Caminiti said. “I remember trying to pull all the tubes out and saying, ‘I’m going to walk again.’”
Eventually, Caminiti and his mother moved to the Chattanooga area to be closer to his sister, who had married a Tennessean. Here, he turned his life experiences to good by starting a non-profit: Disability Awareness Coalition. He traveled the country for several years, speaking to children and teenagers in schools and juvenile detention centers about respecting those with disabilities and about the importance of making good choices.
He is a living example of the consequences of others’ bad decisions.
Caminiti has faced other challenges beyond the shooting. He has been in an automobile accident and watched his house burn down. He has had pneumonia several times and lost his mother to cancer, in addition to developing diabetes and osteoporosis.
In November 2012, he had an accidental fall that broke both of his legs. That is what brought him to Life Care Center of Red Bank in Chattanooga. But Caminiti is not only focused on his own recovery and rehabilitation but on ministering to the other residents at the skilled nursing facility.
“I’m very fortunate because I can work with the people here who are struggling,” said Caminiti. “If it’s a bad day for them, I can smile and talk to them, even if they may not be able to talk back. This place has changed my life.”
“Since he came here, he’s been more alive just with interacting with people,” Stockburger said. “These people have been such an inspiration. They’ve been so upbeat and positive here that I’ve seen a great change in his attitude.”
“I’m here for a reason,” Caminiti summed up, “and with God, it’s the best.”