Pain only starting for accident victims
Since coming home from a nearly two-week hospital stay following a motorcycle accident, Thom and Pam Royster have spent most of each day in their bedroom, where they lie in comfortable darkness, surrounded by motorcycle memorabilia.
They grimace when pain strikes. They console each other. They try to stay optimistic.
Losing hope amid the compounding worries that have impinged their lives since the accident would be destructive.
"We have to (be optimistic)," Pam, 41, said recently. "If I'm not confident, things will be worse."
On the evening of June 21, a car crashed into the side of Thom's '74 Harley-Davidson Sportster. They are now, for most purposes, bed-ridden.
Doctors amputated Thom's left leg below the knee. They inserted a rod into Pam's left leg to support her fractured femur and stitched closed her deep road wounds.
The injuries, which will keep them from standing for months and top a long list of trauma, are the beginning of their problems.
The driver of the car, Mindy M. Hash, 34, of Bartonville, did not have insurance. She was ticketed with operating an uninsured motor vehicle and failure to yield.
The Roysters only had liability insurance.
What's worse, the couple does not have health insurance or disability insurance.
"Our main concern is losing the house," the split-level, where the Roysters and their three children - ages 15, 17 and 19 - have lived for a decade, Pam said.
Accident and aftermath
On June 21, Pam was riding with her husband of 10 years. The couple were on their way to the Splash Carnival at Alpha Park in Bartonville when a Buick LeSabre hit them.
"Unfortunately, I was awake through it all," Thom, 39, said. "By the time I stopped and rolled off the bike, I look back and she's about 10, 15 feet behind me just laying there not moving . . . I look down, I see my leg, and I got a couple tendons holding the bone, which had my sock and shoe on it."
Pam spent 13 days at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, three of them in intensive care. Thom's stay was one day less. While at the hospital, both lost their jobs.
Thom was in training at Caterpillar Inc., which days after the accident sent him a letter that read, "Sorry to hear about your accident. As a supplemental employee, you are not eligible for disability benefits or leave of absence."
And Pam, a temporary worker, was replaced at Kirby Risk Electrical Supply.
While their income has ceased, the medical bills, the mortgage, utility bills and food costs still are mounting.
"My mom has been calling around to different churches, this and that, for helping hands," Thom said, but they haven't received a response.
"Frankly, we're somewhat at a standstill, really. We don't know what to do next," he said.
Help is limited
Family and friends have offered help, especially in acquiring materials to build a ramp to the front door - much needed, as Pam spent 35 minutes moving from the driveway to her bedroom Friday morning when she was released from the hospital. But they haven't received all the materials and they don't know how to build it.
"Until we get someone who even knows how to put something into this place, because of the shortness of the lot and height of the yard, nobody knows what to do," said Peggy Royster, Thom's mother.
And their families can offer limited help in paying for essentials, such as electricity and food.
"I just borrowed $74 (Friday) just to get my prescriptions from my mother-in-law," Pam said.
"We've never been rich, by no means, but we've always paid our bills."
The couple has applied for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, which could help. They've also applied for a medical card, which could pay for the estimated $200,000 hospital bill they've accumulated so far. Their approval status for both won't be known for months.
Along with financial hardship, weighing equally on their minds are the aspects of life that will be lost or delayed because of the accident: Things like fishing with the kids, working for themselves and riding the Harley.
That's something that may never happen again, they said, regardless of the love for the freedom they felt while riding.
"It's going to take us a while to get over this," Pam said. "And me, I don't even know if I can get back on a bike again. I have that fear. And I love riding, and to me, that's taking part of my life away - the fear."
Steven Bushong can be reached at (309) 686-3196 or firstname.lastname@example.org.