Benevolence for Jeremy Chatelain
To those kind enough to consider our plight,
My name is Jeremy J. Chatelain. I am a quadriplegic paralyzed from my shoulders down from a spinal cord injury 21 years ago in a familiar but changed river during a family vacation. In the two decades since, two of the most difficult things I have fought to conquer were learning to breathe again and to drive again. Having accomplished both, I completed my Master of Education and PhD and resumed my full-time occupation as an educator.
We have been blessed immensely since my spinal cord injury, including being chosen to adopt our two wonderful children. The blessings continued despite the diagnosis of leukemia in our then almost 2-year-old daughter who spent the next 3 ½ years of her life in chemotherapy and radiation. The Lord strengthened my wife to care for me, her quadriplegic husband and a daughter with cancer — who is now a thankful and courageous cancer survivor.
Three years ago my work transferred our little family (my wife, our sixteen-year-old daughter, and our nine-year-old son), from out-of-state to Colorado Springs where I teach religion courses to university and high school students and where I oversee and train eleven teachers within a two-hour drive from end to end. My position as Coordinator requires me to drive, something few quadriplegics accomplish because of its difficulty and extreme cost.
Our gratitude was unbounded when, in 2016 after a year of constant effort and wending bureaucracies, we received assistance from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to replace my 20-year-old wheelchair adapted van and driving controls. It was no less than a miracle considering the new van and controls cost $142,000.
Our joy turned to despair when only nine months later we were t-boned by an inattentive 19-year-old driver who totaled my brand-new van, leaving me with no transportation for work, family, or medical needs. I have spent the last year trying to replace the totaled van with the assistance of an attorney fighting a battle against the driver and insurance companies that cannot be won.
Ultimately, because of a myriad of details now more than a year after the collision, we were forced to settle the property damage claim with the insurance company for an exasperatingly low $111,805.29 — a deficit of more than $65,984.89 for a replacement van only with which can I keep my employment.
The trauma and absolute loss of independence as a quadriplegic (including irreparable damage in the collision to my $32,000 power wheelchair) is inexplicable. We have financed ourselves to the point of bankruptcy to replace the van to keep my 21-year career, which I love. We have suffered the loss of family time and vacations, work obligations, my wife’s health and availability to work, service opportunities, and countless other freedoms for which we have fought long and hard with my traumatic spinal cord injury to continue to be contributing members of society.
There is simply no way despite two graduate degrees and a wonderful career that I can make up the nearly $66,000 deficit the careless driver has thrust upon us. My little family and I are grateful for your consideration.
Jeremy J. Chatelain, PhD
LDS S&I Coordinator