Tom’s Story

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Hey Family and Friends! When we first started talking about the contents of “Her Heart’s Creative Corner” I knew I wanted Ms. Elaine to share her and Tom’s testimony of his experience in life thus far and how he became to be a part of our family. Thank you so much to Ms. Elaine for writing such a beautiful piece!


Dear Taylor,

Thank you for asking me to share my story on my search for a loving and safe place for Tom to live.

My oldest child was about to graduate from high school. The feelings of joy, happiness and optimism were overflowing. The day before the graduation Tom was in a horrific car accident. Tom was a passenger and in an instant he lost a best friend and the driver in the truck that hit his friends car also died. The doctors in the emergency room said Tom would not live much longer and that they thought he was brain dead. Tom and God had other plans. Thank you, God.

Tom emerged from his coma after 2 months. When he emerged from his coma Tom had to relearn how to eat, walk, talk and do those simple things we all take for granted. Tom remained in the hospital for another 4 months before being moved to Shepherds Brain and Spinal Injury Hospital in Georgia. He would remain there 6 months while slowly recuperating. While Tom’s wonder spirit and humor remained intact and his faith in God grew stronger, his physical changes only improved to a certain point. He still has many balance issues, seizures, and short term memory problems from his traumatic brain injury.

Tom lived with me after his accident from 2002 until 2019. In 2017, Tom began insisting that he wanted to leave his hometown and move elsewhere and on his own. Tom went into a major depression in 2018. He gradually expressed more and more sadness in his predicament. Tom’s long term memory is intact and he was supposed to go to college at UCF in Orlando. He was looking forward to a life with a family someday. Unfortunately that dream was taken from him. He was grateful that his parents took care of him but he wanted his own and independent live. My greatest pleasure was to love and guide Tom during this period of time.

I researched ways to reengage Tom and help him find his own path to independence. I had heard about the Brain Injury Clubhouse in Jacksonville and thought this would be somewhere he could thrive. He would be surrounded by people who understood his struggles yet looked to maintain a level of normalcy by providing a social structure on a daily basis. Next, I just needed to find him a place to live.

Tom cannot remember to take his medicine to prevent seizures etc. nor make his own food so I knew a group home or assisted living would be the best fit. I downloaded a list of places in Jacksonville (about 100 or so) and started making phone calls and inquiries. My daughter and son in law who live in Jacksonville offered to look at places once I had one picked out. My numerous calls were answered with he is too young, we don’t take brain injuries or the price was so outrageously expensive so I could not afford them. This was the case with a vast majority of the places I contacted.

Those few places I did find that would take Tom were absolute nightmares. I went to Jacksonville several times to check out some ALFs and would end up crying in my car because of the lack of care or interest I saw in the employees caring for the clients or the unsanitary conditions . Then I called Autumn Village, Taylor was the first people I spoke to about Autumn Village. She was kind and compassionate. I had a good feeling. So Andy, my son in law, went to take a tour, he told me a lovely lady named Diandra showed him around. Andy really liked the place.

The following week, I drove over 300 miles with Tom in order to tour Autumn Village. Tom and I sensed something special and we could see how the caregivers interacted and really cared for their clients. I wanted Tom to live at Autumn Village. Fortunately and thankfully, we only had to wait about two months before a bed became available.

When I took Tom to live at Autumn Village I met this beautiful and amazing woman named Andrea. She said that she would be mainly taking care of Tom. She was very thorough with her questions so that she could meet his needs. Tom and I both felt comfortable and secure with Andrea. We have both grown to love Andrea and consider her family. We also felt the same way about Diandra whom we met later on this same day. Tom now refers to Andrea as his other “Mom”.

Tom is happy and thriving at Autumn Village, and he goes to the Brain Injury Clubhouse regularly. He is loved and cared for by the most wonderful compassionate people, Andrea, Diandra, Alice, Will, JoMarie, Nicole, Challia and others that I don’t know by name. This consists of numerous individuals besides those I have mentioned. The managers at Autumn Village do a fantastic job of hiring staff that truly care about people.

Unfortunately COVID 19 has suspended his outings temporarily but the staff have really worked hard to keep Tom and others engaged and most importantly, safe and healthy. I know times are difficult but Danny, the owner, has made the BEST decisions to keep the people safe and as happy as reasonably possible. I am very pleased and impressed. I go to sleep each night knowing my son is loved and taken care of while living at Autumn Village.