Transgender woman abused in nursing home can't find proper care

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Transgender Woman Says She Was Abused at Nursing Home

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Two strokes left a Des Moines transgender woman partially paralyzed and rehabbing at a nursing home in Chariton.

Lequan Edwards claims a nurse mistreated her because of her gender identity and now she says she's learning some nursing homes across the state are forced to shut out members of the transgender community.

"I'm tired of it. Some days, I wish I was dead," Edwards said.

Four months ago, Edwards said she felt as though she was going to die while in a nurse's care at Chariton specialty care.

"They called me 'fag.' They told me to shut up and grabbed me by my throat," Edwards said.

She continues to allege that the nurse then put her in a scalding hot shower.

"I couldn't walk. My legs were burnt bad," Edwards said.

Chariton Specialty Care responded to Edwards' allegations:

"We are not able to comment on a particular individual due to privacy issues. We can say we take all allegations of abuse seriously. If an allegation of abuse were to take place, we would immediately investigate and involve the proper authorities. Due to patient privacy laws, we are bound to protect information about our residents. With that said, there has not been any finding that abuse and/or discrimination has occurred at Chariton Specialty Care. We provide a high level of care to those we serve and we're proud of the role we play in providing nursing services to all individuals, regardless of their gender, religion, age or ethnicity."

Now recovering at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines, Edwards' brother, James Edwards Sr., says she is facing more adversity when trying to find another long-term care facility because of her gender identity.

"They can't put her in a room with a male because she identifies as a female, and they can't put her in a room with a female because she was born a male," he said.

According to Mercy, they've been told by 90 care centers in Des Moines and the surrounding area that Edwards' transgender identification requires her to be in a private room for the comfort of all involved, but her Medicaid coverage won't fully pay for it.

"I don't understand it. I'm a human. I shouldn't have to change who I am to go somewhere," Edwards said.

Facilities in Waterloo and Muscatine, both at least two hours away, have agreed to take Edwards in, but she wants her family to be able to check on her routinely.

"They couldn't come see me. That's why they did what they did," she said.

James now refuses to send his sister anywhere outside Des Moines, but with so many nursing homes refusing care, he's now left with his one bedroom home with doors too small to even fit Edwards' wheelchair.

"I made a stance that no, this isn't right. This should not be happening in our society," James Edwards said.

But until Edwards' legs heal and she can walk under her own power, Mercy says staying with her brother without 24-hour medical supervision is out of the question and doors remain closed at nearby nursing homes.

"I'm a person. Give me the same respect I give you," Edwards said. "I'm not giving up. I'm never going to give up."

Mercy is now trying to find an assisted living home for Edwards to stay, but she says her monthly social security assistance might not be enough to afford such a place.

With the help of two nurses, Edwards has only been able to walk 17 steps.

A fundraiser has been set up at Alders Gate UMC at 3600 75th St., Urbandale, Iowa 50322. Donations to assist in Lequan Edwards' housing can be made in the form of money order or check with "housing aid" written in the memo.

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