While many would correctly argue this campaign was not world altering, for one 78-year old man, his grandson, and family, 3:00 p.m. EDT yesterday afternoon marked a moment when their daughter, mother, and friend to so many arrived safely back home in Boston after a long day’s journey that tested the measure of everyone involved.
Paula Persichini-Petitti had been working on the Lakota Sioux Indian Reservation giving diabetes and alcohol screening counselling to tribe members on Tuesday, June 23rd. When she and her friend headed back to their guest house, they were rear-ended at 60 mph by a woman in a pick-up truck. While her friend was very seriously battered and bruised, she was later released. Paula was less fortunate and has spent the last 18-days in a coma. The damage is to her thalamus, the part of the brain where the body can best learn, on its own, to make new synapse pathways and heal itself.
Yesterday the labor of love from friends around the globe took a huge first step. After raising thousands of dollars to get her life flight, the effort continues as friends and family now wrestle with trying to make up the medical bill differences and keep the lights on and indeed her in her home.
The bitter irony of this story is that Paula, a woman who has dedicated her life to bringing medical supplies, doctors and hope to thousands of people in third world hospitals around the world, was left in a deep insurance hole not uncommon and the subject of health reform. She has medical insurance and while her policy will pay for the bulk of her treatment at Mass General Hospital’s world renowned coma awakening treatment center, it would not pay for the life-flight to bring her there.
Being in a coma, she required a specially outfit medical plane with staff to provide health support and intervention (if needed) as well as specialty ambulance service to and from both hospitals and the plane. That is where her dear friend Jennifer Sea-Booras enters the picture. Jen spent her life in the medical world and sprung to action to handle every detail of Paula’s care.
Her Dad, Buddy, was readying to take out a second mortgage on his home to bring her back. A group of friends took her plight to the Internet and through Twitter and Facebook, the media heard about Paula.
I’d been following Paula for two years and we’d talked about writing a book about her life and travels. I was driving home from north Wales one evening and I called her friend Terri Tobin-Young and told her I had to write about this. That led to this article which appeared also on Huffington Post, LA Progressive, and in other places. Jennifer and her husband Harry set up a Twitter page @BringPaulaHome and a microcredit PayPal account to raise funds.
Since then FOX News 25 in Boston has covered it and The Brockton Enterprise (the regional paper in that part of Massachusetts) ran this story. In a week, $16,000 was raised and her Dad is making up the difference to bring her home.
Once home the work then begins in one of the USA’s finest coma and brain injury recovery hospitals, Massachusetts General. There will be lots to do to take care of her and The Fund for Paula Persichini-Petitti remains in operation. So much of what has been accomplished and what needs to still be done is being done $1, $5, $10 at a time.
There are so many who did so much to make this possible and so this evening is one of short celebration. So forgive me for lighting a Red Auerbach victory cigar, having a wee dram of single malt, and raising a glass to the dozens of heroes who worked around the clock to Bring Paula home. And since it is a long road through these playoffs to the title, it’s now on to the next series, getting her better and knowing she is finally getting the care she needs. Then we next push Congress and President Obama to fix this broken healthcare system so people stop risking bankruptcy to get the care they need for their families.
That’s change we can all believe in!
Welcome home Paula, it’s time to wake up now, we have a lot still to do here.