Tom's Story


Every day, 153 people in the United Sates die from injuries that include Traumatic Brain Injury.

Tom survived...  but his struggle is just beginning and he needs your help.


INTRODUCTION

Tom has been coping with the devastating aftermath of a traumatic brain injury since a chiropractor tore an artery in his neck and shattered his future. Complications from this injury have limited Tom’s income. He urgently needs help paying for medical bills, rehabilitative care, and additional funds to assure that he has a roof over his head.

BACKGROUND

Tom was a promising young IT professional with a bright future. He’d just landed a dream job that would take him from his tiny hometown in the Midwest to the hustle and bustle of New York.

A LIFE SHATTERED

On the morning Tom was supposed to leave for the Big Apple, he went to a local chiropractor seeking relief for chronic neck stiffness and soreness. But things went horribly wrong for Tom, as the chiropractor used too much force and tore an artery in his neck.

The next thing Tom knew, his world was violently spinning, as if the Earth itself had snapped of its axis. He was in blinding pain, disoriented by the horrifying sensations, and crawling around on the floor frantically trying to regain his bearings and make sense of what was happening to him.

That something, as Tom and his family would later learn, was a dissection of his vertebral artery, which had choked off the flow of blood and oxygen to his brain, causing massive neurological damage. In other words, Tom was having an induced stroke, sometimes called a bow-hunter’s stroke.

Despite the obvious crisis Tom was in, the chiropractor didn’t call for an ambulance. He instead left Tom on the floor and continued adjusting and rubbing his neck – putting Tom at increased risk of paralysis or death as the partially dissected artery could have easily been completely severed. Worried that frightened patients had started to leave his waiting room, the chiropractor abandoned Tom, leaving him in the care of his college-aged receptionist (a 20-year-old woman with no medical or chiropractic training).

Tom’s condition continued to worsen, and more than an hour later, the chiropractor finally called an ambulance. But that was just the beginning of Tom’s nightmare.

DISASTER AT THE EMERGENCY ROOM

Unbeknownst to Tom and his family, the local E.R. was run by an embattled physician with a history of malpractice who would later be fired for the wrongful deaths of three patients. This less than capable doctor refused to treat or even examine Tom for close to an hour, at one point having him wheeled into a secluded hallway and left unattended. Every second is precious when dealing with brain injuries, and this costly delay allowed Tom’s brain injury to worsen.

When the E.R. doctor finally got around to examining Tom, he botched the diagnosis – a diagnosis that medical experts later determined was so obvious that a first-year medical student could have spotted it. Instead of recognizing the obvious signs of brain trauma, the E.R. doctor misdiagnosed Tom as having a sinus or viral infection, and he further insisted that the chiropractic adjustment hadn’t done anything damaging to Tom.

Tom’s family, believing the E.R. doctor, loaded Tom up in the family car and took him home, assuring him that he’d be fine in a few days. But it only took twenty-four hours for Tom’s mother to realize that her son wasn’t sick… he was dying. She called several local doctors and tried to get help, and they could only offer a follow-up visit at the same E.R. that had initially misdiagnosed her son. But this time, Tom was examined by the hospital’s most senior physician who correctly ordered a brain scan – the test the injured man should’ve been given in the first place. He misinterpreted the results of the scan, and told Tom’s devastated family that there was a significant tumor located near his brain stem.

It wasn’t until Tom was transported by ambulance to the region’s university hospital that he finally got an accurate diagnosis: dissection of the vertebral artery at the hands of the chiropractor. Tom remained hospitalized for two weeks, during which he nearly died from the severity of his injuries.

NO HOPE, NO HELP

Tom was eventually sent home to live with his elderly parents, and to face his new future. He’d lost his chance to go out of state to start a new life. His health, his promising IT career, his independence (including the ability to drive), and his apartment in a large metropolis were ALL gone.

What Tom was left with were the realities of life with a traumatic brain injury: debilitating dizziness and severe vertigo attacks that would strike without warning several times per day, incredible anxiety, and poor coordination. He was back in his childhood home, being cared for by his elderly parents. He had no money. No job. No opportunities.

Tom was also struggling to do things that seemed almost effortless just a few weeks earlier. Getting from the couch to the bathroom. Taking a shower. Getting dressed. Fixing himself a sandwich. All of these suddenly seemed like Herculean challenges, ones that he wouldn’t be able to overcome independently for months.

The severity of Tom’s neurological symptoms and related visual disturbances meant that he could only look at a computer screen for a couple minutes at a time. Just weeks earlier, he’d spent entire days staring at computer screens while working at IT jobs, but he now had neither the visual ability nor the mental concentration to perform any tasks on computer. He was too physically weak and impaired to get an in-person job, no matter how menial.

Tom was obviously unable to work, but when he applied for disability support, his claim was immediately denied. The disability board callously claimed that because Tom was not in a wheelchair, there was nothing wrong with him, and he could get a job.

ANOTHER INJUSTICE IN COURT

Stung by this stunning rejection and faced with mounting medical debts, Tom tried to sue the chiropractor who injured him and the hospital that misdiagnosed him. But the effort to win a lawsuit failed, despite conclusive medical evidence that the chiropractor had caused Tom’s injury, and that the delay in care caused by the botched E.R. diagnosis had worsened his brain trauma.

Just months before his injury, Tom’s home state changed their malpractice laws, making it almost impossible to sue a doctor, hospital, or chiropractor. Tom’s lawyers were unable to recover any monetary settlement for him. Worse yet, the court proceedings turned into yet another trauma and injustice for Tom and his family.

The week of the proceedings, Tom was incapacitated by vertigo from his brain injury, and he was barely able to move, let alone travel to the courthouse. Tom notified the judge and his staff prior to the court date that he was physically unable to attend, and they agreed to let him participate by phone.

However, at the beginning of the proceedings, the judge abruptly changed his mind, scolded Tom, AND threatened to have him arrested for not appearing in court. Things only got worse for Tom as the proceedings continued.

The chiropractor’s lawyers used the new state law to argue that Tom’s lawsuit had imposed undue emotional and financial stress on the chiropractor and his family. Tom sat in disbelief as the judge sided with the chiropractor’s lawyers and ordered Tom, who was disabled, weak, and unemployable, to pay the chiropractor $5,000 for his troubles. Just one day later, the judge nullified the lawsuit against the hospital, again citing the new state malpractice laws.

Tom and his family had been counting on a settlement to help pay for his ongoing medical bills, which were mounting rapidly. His elderly parents were of limited means, and they drained their minimal retirement savings and took out a second mortgage on their house to help care for him. This placed them in an upside down mortgage and left them at risk of losing their home.

It was four years before Tom could get a job. It was less than 8 hours a week, assisting elderly people with basic tasks like light housekeeping and grocery shopping. He was barely able to maintain that limited schedule because of his severe neurological symptoms.

Today, Tom still has substantial deficits that leave him incapacitated on random days, and even his good days are filled with turbulent symptoms from his injury. He is still helping people, this time in a half-time job that offers the flexibility he needs. But that job is now being eliminated by state budget cuts – and he is still unable to work a conventional work schedule.

And the elderly parents who once cared for Tom – and then were cared for by him in return when they developed health problems – are in danger of losing their home. The county took a lien on their house in exchange for providing his father with full-time nursing home care after he was incapacitated by a massive heart attack.

When Tom’s parents die, the family home will be gone. There is no inheritance – Tom’s parents spent their savings providing for Tom’s daily needs – and all proceeds from the sale of the family home will go to the county.

OUR CAMPAIGN FOR TOM

The purpose of this campaign is to help him raise money for his ongoing medical expenses, including the rehabilitative assistance he needs to regain as much functionality as possible (he will always have deficits, but his doctors believe there is room for improvement). It is also hoped this effort will help offset the years Tom went without income or a legal settlement, provide him with some stability, and help him keep a roof over his head.

Help Us Help Tom

Your donation could help Tom rebuild his future.

Copyright -Life Beyond Brain Injury -2017