James Brazie

Based on an interview with Jimmy and his very caring friend, Tammy Mathieu.

Even though Jimmy is developmentally disabled, he has a smile and a kind word for everyone. This is particularly amazing because he’s had some tough breaks in his life.

Jimmy’s father died in April 2011 leaving him alone at the age of 33. A friend and her children moved in with him, to supposedly help take care of him but she wasn’t doing so. Instead she was mistreating him, took over his home and made life very difficult for him. After a while, she even kicked him out of his rented home.

In January 2012, Tammy and her husband received a call from the police that they had Jimmy in their care. He had been dropped off at the police station by friends who didn’t have room to take him in. Construct, Inc. helped to place Jimmy temporarily in a motel. Tammy and her family had known Jimmy for over 20 years and had always told him to call them if he ever needed their help. They took him into their home. Many people had taken advantage of him instead of helping him. He was very frustrated as he had also been fired from his job (where he had been a faithful employee for over 3 years.)

Tammy explained that she too has a physical disability and was raised by a disabled father, so she knew that Jimmy would probably be entitled to disability benefits. One of the first things she needed to obtain for him was health insurance. Tammy got things rolling and made an appointment with Cheryl Thompson at Advocacy For Access. Mrs. Thompson directed them to VIM while they waited for the MassHealth application to be accepted.

After the initial visit with the nurses, Jimmy was seen by VIM’s Dr. Andrew Plager, who ordered a complete work-up. Jimmy had not been seen by a doctor since he was seventeen. His dad loved him, was his best friend, but never took care of his condition called neurofibromatosis. (Neurofibromatosis is also known as von Recklinghausen Disease. It is a genetic disorder in which the nerve tissue grows tumors, which may cause serious damage by compressing nerves and other tissue. The tumors may cause very large painful lumps under the skin or in the brain, skeletal problems, pressure on spinal nerve roots and other neurological problems. Jimmy has a very large tumor on his leg.)

Coming to VIM was the best thing that could have happened. Dr. Plager found that Jimmy had very high blood pressure and put him on medication, and his blood pressure is now controlled and is being monitored regularly. Jimmy and Tammy found that the support that they received at VIM was amazing! Jimmy was very fearful of visits to doctors, but he said that he was treated so kindly by the staff, nurses, and doctors, that all his fears disappeared!

At VIM, he also received an extensive amount of dental care from Dr. Hayhurst and Margot Rockefeller, VIM’s Dental Care Coordinator and Dental Assistant. They were even able to coordinate some free orthodontic care by Dr. James Lovell and, after sets of X-rays to make sure there was no neurofibromatosis in his mouth, he was able to get free braces to correct his overbite. He is excited and grateful! This is something that had been recommended when he was a child but that was never addressed.

Tammy had to work very hard with Social Security to get him back on disability coverage and, after several appeals, with the help of VIM’s Dr. Stephen Wittenberg (who was extremely kind to Jimmy and wrote a wonderful letter for his file,) he was able to get back on disability insurance.

The clinical care coordinator at VIM was also instrumental in directing them to the Neurofibromatosis Clinic at Mass General Hospital (one of only two such clinics in this country.) She also helped them navigate the complicated system so Jimmy would be covered at both the Clinic at Mass General and with his local primary care provider. This was the last step to an exciting and amazing new journey of care. His first visit is scheduled for November 13, 2012.