PRATT COUNTY — Tim Roush was participating in a motorcycle endurance ride far from his Jacksonville home when an encounter with a deer began an endurance test like no other.
Now he is not only fighting to recover from a spinal injury but to get back home to Jacksonville.
The deer leapt in front of him April 28 as he was navigating his motorcycle on a dirt road in Pratt County, Kansas, while on a cross-country ride organized by the Iron Butt Association, an international network of riders. The resulting crash left Roush, 56, with three crushed vertebrae and other injuries, despite wearing full leather safety gear and a helmet, said his daughter-in-law, Phoebe Storm.
“We are just devastated,” she said.
Their family and friends are seeking public help to fund a medical flight home, she said. Surgery was performed at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, but Roush will also need specialized spinal cord therapy. His health insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, wants to send him to a Nebraska facility, the closest to Wichita, but the family wants him at Brooks Rehabilitation in Jacksonville, four miles from his home and close to his family, said his wife, Sabrina Roush.
“They have a bed waiting for him,” she said. “This is really hard for both of us. I want to be with him (while he is in specialized therapy). If we’re in Nebraska, we have no one there.”
Toni Woods, senior media relations consultant for Jacksonville-based Blue Cross, said she could not comment on a specific case. But she said that “in general, non-emergency medical transportation is not a covered service. We work with the local care team to assist with coordinating the member’s care and work to find the best solution for the member.”
Even if the insurer approves Roush going to Brooks, the cost of the medical flight likely will have to be paid out of pocket, she said. The lowest estimate they have obtained is $7,500, and others are as high as $20,000.
Roush “still has a lot of pain,” his wife said, and the effort to get transport has taken its toll as well.
“Things are tough right now,” she said. “He’s tired and miserable. We are both exhausted from trying to get him home. I’ve spent so much time on the phone and texting and filling out forms and begging and every turn is a brick wall.”
Roush’s friends and fellow members of the biker community have mounted a social media campaign to help, directing supporters to a GoFundMe account set up April 30 by Brittany Thomas.
On Facebook, Roush urged his long-distance biker friends to get medical transport coverage in addition to their normal health insurance.
“Don’t go through the nightmare that I am experiencing now,” he said.