On the morning of July 14, Alexia Rafeedie received a call from her mother, Sandi Brown, saying there had been a family emergency. Alexia was asked to return home immediately. A hospital in Hammond, Louisiana had called Brown minutes earlier saying her son had been in an accident, but they could not give more information on his condition.
Alexia picked her mom up and together they drove over eight hours to Louisiana to learn what had happened. Sandi’s son, Patrick Rafeedie, 20, was driving his new motorcycle to work when a truck pulled in front of him, causing him to slam into the back. His upper body took much of the force of the initial blow before he flew into the air and landed hard on the pavement, sliding nearly 200 feet.
Most of Patrick’s ribs were either broken or fractured. Both of his lungs collapsed. His pelvis was broken, and he had no feeling from the waist down.
“They didn’t think he was going to make it,” Alexia said.
Paramedics worked on him for over 45 minutes before airlifting him to North Oaks Hospital in Hammond.
“Most of the time he recognizes me,” Sandi said. “He doesn’t know where he’s at. Sometimes he’s in Florida. It’s touch-and-go with what he remembers and what he doesn’t. We have to explain to him that he’s in a hospital. He doesn’t realize, and when he does, he gets a really terrified, scared look on his face.”
Patrick’s hands are restrained to prevent him from pulling out or breaking the medical devices keeping him alive. He has a trachea in his neck providing oxygen and a peg in his stomach feeding him.
“He’s pulled the peg out five times,” Sandi said. “He’s actually broken the tubes on the trachea twice, not just pulled it out but both times he’s actually broken the tubes.”
Patrick, who lost his older brother in 2009 to a car accident, just finished his sophomore year at Louisiana’s Southeastern University. A boy that Alexia describes as very family oriented and hard-working, he had recently started a job at a landscaping company to help pay for college.
For his mother, a State-Farm insurance agent that owns her own agency on MacArthur Blvd, keeping spirits high and still running the business has been a struggle.
“My daughter has been here as much as she can, but I need her at the office working,” Sandi said. Sandi has been at the hospital for over 26 days, and the hospital staff set up an air mattress in the waiting room for her.
The truck driver received a ticket for failure to yield at a stop sign. He was driving on a suspended license and has had a bench warrant out since 2012. At the time of the accident, he had no insurance on the vehicle and was driving four children.
“I’m working hard to get somebody to pick him up on the warrant that he’s had out since 2012,” Sandi said. “Then I’m waiting for this case to be put on the docket so I can try to pursue further charges.”
On Thursday, August 3 Patrick had back surgery to fix his fractured T4 through T11 and T1 spinal nerves. Sandi said he may need more surgery as they monitor each day.
Since the accident, Patrick has not recovered feeling from his waist down. He has received 19 units of blood and is on life support, but doctors told his family to remain optimistic.
“They’ve told us not to give up hope, but as of now it’s not looking good,” Sandi said. “My goal is to get him completely off the ventilator, to get him in the right state of mind, and to get his physical therapy started. That’s the goal before they’re able to even get him out of SICU (Surgical Intensive Care Unit).”
For now, the family has limited hospital visits to immediate family because Patrick contracted MRSA in his lungs, an infection caused by a staph bacteria resistant to many antibiotics. He also fights fevers every night from a rare super bug in his lungs that doctors have yet to identify.
RISING HOSPITAL COSTS
Although the family has insurance, most medical providers will cover up to a certain amount, leaving the family to foot the bill for the remaining cost.
“Out-of-pocket expenses he’s incurred so far on 23 days is $32,000,” Alexia said. “That’s not including what health insurance is going to cover. That’s out of pocket that we have to pay.”
Patrick is set to be in ICU for a few more weeks before moving to another room. The price of staying in an ICU varies, but generally is over $5,000 a day.
Although Patrick was initially air lifted just five miles from the site of the accident, the cost of that flight alone could easily be thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, medical flights are not required to report fees, and they can range from $12,000 to as much as $25,000 per flight.
Sandi was told by the hospital staff that the medical flight will not be covered by insurance. Now, the family hopes to save money so they can air lift Patrick to TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation and Research in Houston, one of the leading rehab facilities in the country. A medical flight to Houston from Hammond could cost as much at $20,000.
Patrick’s family made the decision to make their private struggle public. They hope that by telling their story, they can raise money for his rising medical costs. The money raised will help cover continued care after hospitalization and living expenses after rehabilitation. The family’s GoFundMe page has a goal of $50,000.
“The funds will go for anything that insurance doesn’t cover as far as any medical equipment he’s going to need,” Sandi said. “He’s going to need a wheelchair. He’s going to need ramps whenever he does come home. He’s going to need living expenses and getting readjusted to being paralyzed.”
A family friend has set up a blood drive at Sandi’s office on August 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 717 North MacArthur Blvd to store blood for the Irving community. The blood won’t assist Patrick directly, but is a way for Brown and her family to honor his name.
“With the amount of blood that has been given to Patrick, I want to do something for our local community,” Sandi said. “Without the blood that Patrick’s been given, he wouldn’t be here.”