State of Mind

Keeping a damaged brain alive may be the greatest act of friendship.

By G.W. Miller III
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 5 | Posted Nov. 12, 2008

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Curcio ended the romantic relationship.

"I thought it was important that he have a friend more than anything else," he says.

They continued to live together. And Curcio's primary focus became tending to his new best friend.


Curcio was unemployed, having recently filed a discrimination lawsuit against his former employer, a Collingswood, N.J., high school.

Hardt burned through a string of jobs that never lasted long: stock boy at a hardware store, McDonald's table cleaner, rug shop assistant, grocery store bagger. He would uncontrollably snap and start yelling, then get fired. One time, while bagging groceries, he hit a woman over the head with a bag.

Curcio and Hardt were broke.

"We were five months behind in rent," Curcio remembers.

Caring for Hardt is a full-time job. He forgets things, becomes disoriented, explodes into outbursts and about once a week has seizures that can last up to five minutes.

They finally registered Hardt for Medicare and received financial assistance. Curcio found work. A personal care attendant (PCA) was hired to ensure Hardt's safety while Curcio was at the office.

Things were fine until the attendant called out sick, then quit altogether. Four attendants quit over two years. With each disappearing attendant, Curcio would miss time from his job counseling HIV patients.

"We couldn't find quality help," Curcio recalls. "The money's low, like $9 per hour. There are no benefits."

The unreliable care meant that after Curcio came home from his job, he'd still have to arrange Hardt's medical appointments, establish his diet and develop exercises to keep Hardt's brain functioning.

It was like working two jobs.


In 2007 Curcio quit his counseling job, earned his certification and became Hardt's PCA.

"My job is to keep his brain alive," Curcio says proudly.

Anytime Hardt is awake, Curcio is on the job. They work on hand-eye coordination, reading comprehension, memory retention and physical fitness, among other activities.

Curcio starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m. He earns $10 per hour, for an eight-hour day, and there's no overtime. He works seven days a week.

"I don't have a salary that's anything equal to what I'm doing as a job," Curcio says.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 5 of 5
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1. David said... on Dec 11, 2008 at 04:55AM

“I want to meet you more than ever. I'm very moved.”

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2. Daniel said... on Dec 13, 2008 at 10:34PM

“Thank you David! I don't know who you want to meet but both of us are on Face Book.”

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3. K. Burns said... on Dec 27, 2008 at 08:24AM

“Hello Dan, you both are very inspirational and i wish you both all the luck there is! ”

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4. Daniel said... on Dec 29, 2008 at 05:19PM

“Thanks man...Thank you for everything :) You should stop over sometime.”

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5. Me said... on Feb 5, 2009 at 08:36AM

“Why were you not receiving overtime? Is it because you were and independent or did you work for an agency? According to Pennsylvania State laws you are required to receive overtime after 40 hours, not sure what other states are but you may want to check into this. You can file a complaint with the Department of Labor. Also, Insurance is available from some home care agencies. Facts show that most PCAs do not choose the insurance and the cost is cheaper than you were paying.”

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