Lawrenceburg Now

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Loved Ones Work To Bring Wes Home

   After twelve weeks – 85 days – in a coma, family members of Lawrenceburg native Wesley Putman report that he is responsive, and hopefully on the road to recovery. Now they are working on a plan to bring Wes home.

   Wesley Putman, age 26, is the son of Monitta Putman of Lawrenceburg and Brent Putman of Summertown. When he began college at Middle Tennessee State University he carried with him the dream of becoming a lawyer, or college level history teacher.

Which dream to pursue took some consideration, so in the meantime he contracted to teach English at an area just outside Seoul, South Korea. He taught there for a year, then returned to Murfreesboro.

   Unable to find a substantial job, Putman moved back to Lawrenceburg last summer where he worked in the construction field. Afterwards he contracted for a second year of teaching in Korea, this time inside Seoul, where he taught English to elementary age students.

   Life seemed to be moving along normally until March 12 of this year. While crossing a highway on foot, Putman was struck by a taxi cab, sustaining critical head injuries. The accident occurred just a block from his apartment, and very near to the hospital to which he was rushed. He was able to obtain immediate care, which saved his life.

   Doctors determined that Putman had sustained damage to the brain stem, acute epidural hematoma, subdural hemorrhage, diffuse axonal injury and many other injuries. Each injury was serious in itself – together they posed a tremendous threat to his life.

   The night the accident occurred medical personnel at the hospital performed a craniotomy, removing a portion of his skull to accommodate swelling. During the following weeks Putman was considered to be semi-conscious. Family members say that he was able to respond to stimuli such as pain and could move his head and limbs only slightly, as well as opening one eye just a bit.

   At twelve weeks the family was ecstatic when for the first time Putman could raise one finger when asked to do so. A small victory, the action granted a measure of hope they had not experienced since the tragic accident.

   Although Putman has since undergone a crainoplasty to correct the craniotomy, doctors warned that damage to the brain stem is still a concern, as well as injury to other portions of the brain.

   As quickly after the accident as they could secure passports and flights, mother Monitta, along with a friend and her other son Casey, flew to Seoul to be with Putman. His mother was allowed to live in his apartment for a time but was later forced to find another.

Family members say the move was expensive, requiring that she pay a down payment and several months’ rent in advance. Other family members have taken turns making the extensive journey to be with Putman, as well.

   Putman’s aunt, Melissa Brazier, explains that the medical system in Korea is very different from that in America. “He did the smart thing,” she said, “He checked with his Korean employer to see if they provided insurance while he was there and they did. But the insurance they provide is only for health - not accidents - and has not paid a dime.”

   “Health care there is very different,” Brazier explains, “They say it is less expensive than in the U.S. but they provide very little. The family has to pay for a ‘care-taker’ who stays with Wes twenty-four hours a day, six days a week to do the things that hospitals here would provide automatically, such as suction, changing, turning and administering some meds like breathing treatments.

   “His doctor there, Dr. Kang, says that Wesley is a special patient and he has done special things to help him out. For that we are very thankful.”

   Brazier said that Putman’s parents are in the midst of negotiations with the cab company. “They say they are going to pay at least a portion of his hospital bill and possibly money for travel and care - but this is not guaranteed.

   “Their lawyer has told the family that Wes needs to be there (Korea) to receive any real settlement with the taxi insurance company,” Brazier said, “It is really sad that in order to receive treatment he has to remain in Seoul.”

   Although doctors say Putman is now stable enough to fly home, the cost of transport is staggering. “We are talking with an airline about a commercial flight but that would mean transporting a man who requires suction from his lungs every couple of hours as well as the other physical needs he would have, in the 20+ hour transport,” says Brazier.

“International air ambulance price quotes have ranged from $134,000 to $169,000, but that is hospital to hospital or other medical facility. Also, we have been told that a military flight is not an option because he is not in the military nor are either of his parents.”

   Once home, Brazier said the family will still be dealing with the financial aftermath as well as future expenses. “Wes has no insurance here in the states. He will not have any insurance once he is transported. We have filed for disability, checked with TennCare and spoken with every congressman and senator who will return our calls.

There seems to be no clear cut answer as to where he can go for treatment after he comes back to Tennessee or what type of insurance might help defray the cost. Also, we have been told that TennCare will not pay for adult rehab.”

   “The reality is,” Brazier pointed out, “that his long-term care is going to be very expensive.”

   “This ordeal has been unbelievable,” says Brazier, “but God has been amazing! Had it happened here, things would have been difficult enough, but the language barriers, time difference, and cultural differences have certainly added to the stress.

   “Had the accident occurred the first time Wes was in Seoul he would have been nowhere near the hospital when he was hit and would likely have died in transport.

His apartment Monitta lived in was a walk away from the hospital - he was hit one block away. The new apartment, though expensive, is still in walking distance, which is important since Monitta has to launder all his bathing rags.

It is also in a more Western area of the city where maybe she can find some food that is more like home. She also has to walk to get groceries as well as the medical supplies she is responsible for purchasing like diapers, pads, lotion, Kleenex, wipes, some medications, and tubes for his trachea.”

   Friends and family members alike have banded together in the days since Putman’s accident. They have been able to keep in touch with the family via internet and offer a support network in the hopes of keeping their spirits up. They are now banding together in the hopes of raising enough money to bring them home.

   An all-day fundraising event is set for Saturday, June 18, 2011 in the area of the Lawrenceburg Golf and Country Club located on West Gaines/Glenn Springs Road. A 5-K run will get underway at 7:30 a.m., with registration beginning at 7:00.

Numerous other activities are planned, including an auction, silent auction, live music, inflatables for the youngsters, and many more activities. Some of the activities will be held at the nearby Woodmen of the World building and Shoals Crossing Putt Putt, both also on Glenn Springs Road.

   For those wishing to contribute to the effort there are several ways to do so. Donations may be made at First Farmers and Merchants Bank to the Wes Putman Benefit Account, or mailed to:  57 Cardinal Court, Lawrenceburg, TN 38464.

   For additional information you may contact Brazier at 931-279-0230.

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