Every Thursday for years Sydney Garth drove from his home in Washington, D.C. to New Jersey to care for his grandmother. Baltimore was nothing more than a city in the rear view as he headed north on I-95. But a tragic accident has stranded him here for nearly a year. He doesn't want to just go home for the holidays; he wants to go home for good.
Something you do every morning in a matter of seconds takes Garth a full ten minutes and a team of nurses. His life is now reliant on others. Because of an accident, his legs now fail him. And he can't even recall the crash.
"I can't really tell you what happened because things are sort of hazy," Garth told us one afternoon just before Thanksgiving.
All Sydney knows now is his new reality in a rehabilitation facility in Overlea. He ended up here after months in the Baltimore hospitals that saved his life. Last November he was hit by a suspected drunk driver as he headed into the Ft. McHenry tunnel on one of those trips to New Jersey.
Garth is paralyzed. And it's not just his legs, he says, but also his spirit. He says, "People who see it just don't understand it. I'm just trapped."
Garth is not trapped entirely by his injuries. Some of his limitations come from the system designed to help him overcome them. When Sydney was moved to the Overlea hospital, it wasn't by choice. He says he lobbied for a facility closer to home. But he had no medical insurance when he was hit and because he was getting government disability, he says he had little say in the process.
As a result Garth was placed more than 50 miles from his home in Washington. It's not that the care he receives isn't good. It's that he is far away from family, friends and his close-knit church community. Instead, he's spent every day for nearly a year away from a home.
"I've got to get out of here somehow and I don't know how I'm going to do it," Garth said.
But getting out of this hospital and into a facility closer to Washington, D.C. will be tough according to Steve Kelly, a Baltimore-based victim rights attorney who says he is working Garth's case pro bono at the request of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. At the moment, the hospital that cares for Sydney gets all but $75 of his monthly disability check.
Garth also has an outstanding bill from his current facility for more than $7,000 and is racking up charges day after day. That is a massive hurdle according to Kelly, who says, "No other facility will take him with an outstanding balance."
Kelly says he's not just seeking justice for the driver who hit Garth. He also took the case, he says, to shine a light on a system that has isolated a victim who desperately wants to go back home.
"He's not asking to be put up in the Ritz-Carlton. He's asking to be in the District of Columbia," Kelly said.
Getting Garth back to D.C. is the goal. That's where he says he can lean on his support network, get back to work and start earning a paycheck. He had several part-time jobs in the District before his accident, most notably as an office manager for the estate of 70s disco legend Van McCoy, known best for the smash-hit "The Hustle".
Sydney tells us he just wants to get back to a normal life, the kind he had before the accident. He wants a life he says is about more than just a battle to get out of bed in the morning. He wants to go home.
"I don't want to be here a year. I don't," Garth said, "I can't. I can't. I can't. I just can't. I really just can't."