by dorothea wilson
On Aug. 7, 1978, two young men in a car careened around a curve and plunged into a 20-foot-deep ditch. One of the young men was our son, Jamie, an athletic 20-year old nursing student who laid in intensive care, comatose, and hooked up to life-giving machines. We have never, ever forgotten the feelings of devastation from that first fateful night.
After two months in the hospital, Jamie was released to a rehabilitation center. The care took a swift downturn, when he no longer had one-on-one nursing care. We were shocked as his appearance deteriorated and the days, weeks, and then months passed by. We were able to bring Jamie home, comatose but with high hopes. We placed his bed in the dining room and he became the center of our world. We touched him, talked to him, and loved him.
We had the “Hollywood” mindset that one day he would wake up and say “where am I.” This did not happen, and, a doctor told us “he will always need 24 hour care.” This took my breath away. I was the primary caregiver but I was already tired, real tired.
This caused my husband to say, “We will build our own.” We knew this was the answer. That day the Lighthouse was born in our hearts and minds, but it took several years to become a reality. Jan. 18, 1987, Lighthouse opened its doors filled with hope, God’s blessings and all the experiences of many lessons learned from Jamie.
Michigan’s Auto No-Fault Law, which guaranteed all auto accident victims’ necessary unlimited medical coverage over and above your primary health insurance, gave us financial freedom to make decisions about Jaime’s care, and help other survivors. But since the law was reformed in 2019, I am gravely concerned that severely injured accident victims will no longer have access to the care they need to lead productive lives.
As someone familiar with the impacts of severe auto crash injuries, I’d like to share some thoughts and recommendations.
First, choosing lifetime, unlimited PIP benefits is the best way to make sure you get the care you and your family would need should the unthinkable happen. Consumers who choose a capped plan and get into a serious accident will likely run out of benefits within weeks, if not sooner—especially if they suffer a traumatic brain or spinal cord injury, which requires a lifetime of recovery.
Secondly, while many people think they can rely on their health insurance; Medicare or Medicaid to cover their care, that’s simply not true.
These plans won’t cover the kind of comprehensive long-term care that facilities like Lighthouse provides.
Thirdly, as a service provider, we have already seen numerous accident victims who would have had adequate funding under the previous law but, because of the capped benefits, will now suffer greatly and not receive the help that could have been available.
The questions remain, what happens if it is your spouse or child that is injured? What coverage would you want available to them?
Our mission is to provide phenomenal care, treating every resident and client as we wanted our son to be treated. For years, we’ve been able to achieve that mission, but Michigan’s new auto insurance law means too many victims won’t have access to important specialized care. I hope Michigan’s leaders take another look and make changes to protect more accident victims.
Until then, I strongly encourage all Michigan residents to purchase lifetime, unlimited PIP benefits when they renew their auto insurance. A life-changing accident can happen to anyone.
About the author: Dorothea Wilson and her husband, Jim Wilson, founded The Lighthouse Neurological Rehabilitation Center in 1987, nine years after their son was severely injured in a car crash.