Special Report: A Family’s Fight for Care

Roger Maynor (Family photos)
Roger Maynor (Family photos)

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) – The family of a local veteran, comatose after a brain injury, has some measure of hope after an agonizing saga to get him vital treatment. Their struggle to arrange the care has involved two long years, thousands of miles, nearly $50,000 and a bureaucratic mess with the Veterans Administration.

Roger Maynor, 63, retired from the Air Force after serving 30 years, including being stationed at Langley AFB. He was doing volunteer work in 2014 in a remote section of the Philippines when he fell from a ladder and sustained a major brain injury.

“We know he’s in there,” said daughter Teri Vick. “We talked to him, he nodded his head at me.”

The cost of a special medical flight to get him back to the U.S. was $45,000. His family learned it was not covered by insurance. They appealed to lawmakers, the military, and the VA, but were denied any financial help. Maynor remained in the Philippines for two years.

By October, Maynor’s family raised the money for the flight. The ambulance to Manila was a six-hour ride; the flight to JFK airport in New York City added another 20 hours. The family then had their husband and father transported to Richmond McGuire Veterans Medical Center.

“We researched, and Richmond McGuire hospital was the best,” said daughter Michelle Dawn Maynor. Richmond was a pioneer in the VA medical system for a brain injury therapy known as emerging consciousness.

But after a few days, Richmond doctors told the family that Maynor had to be transferred to Hampton. Doctors gave the family a discouraging prognosis.

“It’s been two years, I’m sorry. This is what your dad’s going to be,” Michelle Maynor recalls being told.

Once the retired chief master sergeant was taken to Hampton, the daughters say they got more bad news.

“When they came and told us they were sending him to a nursing home, it was that moment of, this has got to stop, we are constantly fighting and someone has to listen.”

This time, the VA did listen, after the family went on social media. They posted a story that was shared more than 3,000 times. Doctors told them Monday that Maynor would be sent back to the Richmond VAMC to get the vital therapy.

Emerging consciousness therapy aims to keep the body as healthy as possible, so that the patients injured brain will be more receptive to stimulation. Dr. David Cifu, an expert on brain injury among military patients and co-author of this study, told us that the treatment has shown promise even for patients who started it long after they were injured.

Document: Emerging consciousness therapy study

Maynor’s family says they’re grateful that the VA is giving him a fighting chance.

“We’re not going to a nursing home,” Michelle Maynor said. “We brought him all this way. We paid all this money — for help. Not to be shoved under a rug and forgotten. That’s our fear – getting lost in the system. We’re not going to let that happen.”

Hampton VAMC released a statement to 10 On Your Side, describing the difference between their care and the Richmond VAMC’s care. Read the statement here.