Jim Bowling: Life Changing Accident

Jim Bowling has always worked hard, both for the Virginia Department of Forestry and as a Wildland Firefighter. In August of 2013,  after 22 years of service behind him and with only 8 years to go until full retirement from the Department of Forestry, Jim sufferered a head injury while at work and his life would change forever.

The morning of August 14, 2013 was a normal summer morning at our home says his then-fiancee, Donna. Jim was "on the bubble" to go and fight wildfires raging out west and left for his job with the DOF at the usual 7am to go clear up any outstanding logging/water quality jobs so that he would be free to leave on a firefighting assignment with as little as 24 hours notice. He returned home at around noon that day to grab a quick bite and went back to work in the State of Virginia DOF truck at around 12:30pm.

He returned home at around 4 or so that afternoon, but something was "off" when he came in the back door. I (Donna) was standing at the kitchen counter and he came in and asked me repeatedly "what's going on"? I thought he was joking, and then I saw a smear of blood on his face, the grayish color of his skin and began to look more closely. I first noticed that his right shoulder was scraped pretty badly, upon removing his DOF ballcap, I found that the right side of his skull was also scraped and bleeding--this is when I noticed blood draining from his right ear and immediately took him to our local ER.  After a CT Scan he was loaded onto an ambulance and taken to VCU Medical Center in downtown Richmond, Virginia, an hour and a half from our home.

That evening he was admitted to the Neurological  ICU Unit where he would remain for the next 12 days. He had suffered a severe skull fracture to the right side of the brain just behind the ear, the impact was sufficient enough to cause the brain to "slosh" over to the left side of his head and create a large bleeding contusion to the left side of the brain.

To this day, Jim has no recall of what DOF job he was on, how he drove home (Thank God he did), or the first three days in the hospital. Because he cannot tell Workers' Compensation where he was, he has been denied benefits. We have been through three lawyers trying to get the decision changed...to no avail.

In August 2014, Jim's condition and end of paid time off from the DOF forced him to accept Disability Retirement from the Department of Forestry. Jim collects only a portion of his regular retirement benefit and has lost his medical insurance for himself and his family.

A year and a half later, we are still seeing doctors for his vertigo, chronic fatigue, severe headaches, loss of smell and taste, vestibular damage, depression, anxiety and so on. Less often now, since we are resigned to the fact that these conditions are likely permanent, but we still keep trying to get him better. BUT this effort is not enough for Social Security Disability to consider him disabled and help to subsidize his income or help with medical expenses. That fight goes on.

Jim has always considered his modest home and land in Nottoway County, Virginia his "little piece of heaven". "Heaven" had to be put on the market because we could not afford the mortgage and sold in December 2014...our profit was ZERO; actually we were supposed to pay nearly a thousand dollars, but I contacted the buyers and made arrangements for them to pay that amount since we were broke. We moved to Covington, Virginia in October in order to be closer to his family in West Virginai and to hopefullylive on less money. We rent a small house that needs endless repairs and updates in a neighborhood with views (and sounds and smells) of the interstate highway and a RR switching station; no quiet to be had here.

We cannot afford to move, we can barely afford the little rent we pay now, few places will accept our pets, and I cannot keep subjecting Jim (or myself) to the unsettling effects and physical demands of moving to yet another rental.

I can only work part time right now because I spend so much of my time working with doctors, lawyers, social security, AND taking care of my husband's needs that I have no energy left at the end of a day.

My goal...the reason for the money? I need for him, and us, to feel safe and cared for.

My plan for any funds that are generously donated:

>Purchase an insurance policy for my husband so that every visit to a doctor or specialist is not a financial emergency.

>Try to make a down payment on a small piece of land in the country where we can place a mobile home to live out the rest of our lives in peace and free from harrassment and physical harm.

>Any additional funds would be used to pay off debts that we were left with when the accident happened.

We thank you all for considering helping us in these trying times.

James and Donna Bowling


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Donna Bowling 
Covington, VA
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