Bills mounting for accident victim

Longtime neighborhood resident Margaret Morton used to walk her dog Sapphire to Magnolia Village an average of three times a week from her home in the 3800 block of 33rd Ave. W. But it will be a long time - if ever - before she makes the trek again.

Morton, 56, was severely injured Nov. 13 when a chimney collapsed on her during a remodeling project at her home, leaving her with brain injuries, said her sister, Arnett Morton, who has been living in the same house.

Margaret is currently in a Mercer Island nursing home, but her sister and next-door neighbor, Joanne Beyer, have been left trying to cope with the aftermath of the accident.

Margaret's medical expenses have been covered with insurance from her job as a dental-assistant instructor and program coordinator at the Seattle Vocational Institute, Arnett said.

But other expenses such as mortgage and car payments aren't, and Arnett said she has been unable to get access to her sister's bank account to pay those bills.

Margaret was fixing up what used to be a boat-storage shed in her back yard when the accident happened, Arnett said. The idea was to use it for her dog and to teach grooming classes. "She loves dogs so much she wanted a canine retreat," Arnett said.

"I was in the kitchen washing dishes, and I heard the dog bark once." When she heard the dog bark again after she'd finished the dishes, "for some reason I decided to go down there," she said.

Arnett found her sister collapsed on her back. Her eyes were swollen shut and she wasn't moving, although Arnett said Margaret was able to squeeze her hand. Arnett panicked and ran up the driveway calling for help.

Beyer heard her and called 911, Arnett said. "They wanted more information when I called," Beyer said, "but when I opened the door, Sapphire charged at me. She was very protective."

A Harborview Medical Center neurosurgeon operated immediately, but Margaret is blind in one eye now, and her speech and emotions have been affected by the accident, Arnett said.

"Margaret has no cognitive skills," Beyer added. So Beyer and another neighbor called all the companies Margaret owes money to in an effort to make arrangements. "And they're all very good about due dates - except the mortgage company," she said.

Adding to her sister's woes, Sapphire got into a fight with another neighborhood dog a week after the accident and needed to be fixed up at the veterinarians, Arnett said.

Arnett is at a loss about what to do. "I don't think she has any savings," she said. "I really don't know. She was a very private person as far as financing goes." Arnett said she isn't even sure what her sister's mortgage payments are.

But Margaret's credit union won't tell Arnett anything about her sister's bank account because she doesn't have power of attorney, Beyer said.

Arnett said she's talked to a few lawyers, but so far, no one is willing to take the case, and that's a problem. "The [medical] insurance company said it would be at least a year before she's more functional," Arnett said.

Sapphire, a Bouvier de Flanders breed, isn't handling her owner's accident very well, either. She used to sleep in the same room as Margaret, Arnett said. "Now the dog sits by the door and won't go to bed."

Arnett and Beyer said they have set up a bank account for Margaret at the Magnolia Village branch of Washington Mutual Bank. Donations are welcome.

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