Smithfield dad battles WakeMed over son's guardianship
Posted June 26, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — A Raleigh hospital has asked a Wake County judge to appoint a guardian for a Johnston County teenager receiving care for a severe brain injury after his medical insurance lapsed.
The teen's father, however, says, he is fighting for the right to take care of his son.
Fred Lempe, of Smithfield, says his 18-year-old son, Freddie, was months away from graduating from Smithfield-Selma High School in March 2011 when he was injured in a car crash.
His father's Medicaid initially paid the younger Lempe's bills, but he was dropped in December when he turned 18.
Fred Lempe says he was told that he would need to reapply. He says he's been trying to secure coverage again.
"We hope that we can get everything resolved and do the right thing for Freddie," Fred Lampe said.
In the meantime, however, WakeMed wants the court to appoint a legal guardian for Freddie.
Fred Lempe's attorney, Marcia Stewart, says that scares her client, because the guardian would be legally authorized to make all medical decisions for Freddie.
Stewart says her client has complied with everything that has been asked of him to get the Medicaid benefits reinstated.
"I think it is a drastic measure. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me," Stewart said. "It's absolutely heartbreaking and absolutely shameful, if you had any idea what this man has done for his son day and night for 14 months."
WakeMed released a statement Tuesday, saying that the move "has nothing to do with the care that Freddie has received and will continue to receive regardless of the judge's decision."
"We are simply taking steps to secure financial resources for Freddie through Medicaid, which should be available to him for his care," the hospital said.
The Lempe family estimates that medical bills have approached $4 million.
"I believe I've got Freddie's best interests at hand way more than WakeMed does," Fred Lempe said.
The hearing was continued Tuesday, so for now, Lempe remains the legal guardian for his son.
He hopes he will be able to secure Medicaid benefits before the next hearing, which is scheduled for July 25.