Kris Ruckle-Mahon – Caregiver

My role went from being a parent to a caregiver on April 11, 2007, something I was not financially prepared for. I was fortunate though, to have a great work and family support system to help us through it.

My name is Kris Ruckle-Mahon from Traverse City, Michigan and I am the mother of, at the time of this writing, 23 year old Brittney Ruckle. Brittney was 9 at the time of her accident. This is our story….

It was Wednesday, April 11, 2007.  The first day of the rest of my life.

I woke up early that morning to travel to Nashville, TN for a five day Spa show.  Part of my job is to travel to a trade show about four times a year.  This morning was just like the other travel mornings.  My mom and dad had arrived the night before to watch my children (Brittney, 9 and Jordan, 8) while I was away which they have done for many years.  My dad took me to the airport to catch the 7AM flight to Detroit and then onto Nashville.  When I landed in Detroit at 8:15 I called home to talk to Britt and Jordan before school.  We usually left about that time but I got my machine (voicemail).  My mom had already taken them because Brittney wanted to be early that day, she loved school.  My plane landed at 9:30 Michigan time which was 10:30 TN time.  As soon as the plane landed I checked my phone for messages but did not have any. 

As my coworker (Wendy) and I arrived at baggage claim I noticed that one of my bags were missing.  I began to stand in the lost luggage line and my phone rang with messages.  I had five messages and one missed call from 935-5000…which I knew was Munson Hospital.  As I listened to each message, one from the sheriff….then Munson….and heard your children have been in an auto accident….please call immediately…my heart sank and I could hardly talk. 

Afterwards, I found out that my friend Stephanie was one of the ER nurses and that is how they were able to contact me and get me home so fast.  I told Wendy and then jumped in front of the line and told the lady that I needed to get back to Grand Rapids, MI.  Northwest Airlines must have some kind of system because they already knew and she said..they are holding a plane…GO..GO…I ran up the stairs to the next counter where another wonderful Northwest staff whirled me through security and then to the gate…that is all I remember. 

During this time I was talking to my brother Glenn who said that Jordan and mom were ok but they were taking Brittney to GR but just get to Detroit and then call me.  I had to hand up the phone because the plane was taking off.  During that flight all I could do is pray and cry.  During the flight a very nice man from first class traded seats with me so I could be the first one off.  The plane landed and I called my brother.  He said they were canceling all flights into GR due to the snow storm so just go to Baggage claim and his wife (Glenda, they live in Ann Arbor) would be there waiting to drive me to GR.  The longest two hour drive began…making calls to Devos Childrens Hospital PICU…Nathalie was on the other end of the phone and I remember just asking her not to let my girl die…..she said she was critical but stable…she was also wonderful and calm.  

My dad and sister Donna and her husband Bob and Steve (Brittney and Jordan’s dad)  were with Jordan and my mom at Munson in TC. Jordan had a concussion and glass in his head and hand and they were keeping him for a few days but he would be ok.  My mom had glass in her face and a sore shoulder but they would release her that day.  Brittney was the one to worry about.  She had taken most of the hit from a truck carrying a trailer.  This was at the intersection of Garfield and Potter which we took to school everyday.  My sister Diane and brother Glenn were with Brittney when she arrived at DeVos.

When I arrived at DeVos Children’s Hospital I saw Brittney.  The doctors and surgeon stated to explain….Brittney had a Tramatic Brain Injury, broken left arm, lacerated liver and lots of glass on the right side of her face.  The big problem was her brain.  She survived the initial trama but her brain would begin to swell which is worse than the actual injury.  They had already put a drain in her head to release some pressure but they would have to start the drug induced coma to slow the flow of blood to her head to make room for the swelling.  During the next three weeks Brittney fought for her life.  She came close three times to losing the battle.  Because of the severity of her injury the one drain could not keep up and her brain was swelling too much.  Dr. Skarli, her Neuro Surgeon returned on Friday and offered us a new procedure that may or may not save her.  This was called a lumbar drain.  We did this and at first it was a miracle and then Brittney crashed again but our prayers were answered as the pressure began to stabilize.  She spent 30 days in PICU and another 6 days on the 9th floor.  

Brittney

https://www.record-eagle.com/archives/officials-identify-victims-of-garfield-road-car-crash/article_fa8c6ac6-2f4b-5047-839d-1f55d7c31867.html

She survived! But now we would begin the rehabilitation step at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in GR.  We arrived on May 16, 2007.  Brittney was awake but not doing much.  She started her Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapies the next day.  It has been three months and we are still in rehab and Brittney gets stronger each day.  She has begun to talk, stand, and she smiles a lot.  Her physical strength improves each day along with her cognitive skills.  The doctors say that children with this type of injury continue to improve for years.  We see Brittney improving everyday and pray for a full recovery for her.  We hope to have Brittney back in Traverse City late August or early September.

During these months I have been blessed to have my mom, dad, brother, and sisters who have been with us since that terrible morning.  They have made trips to GR every week and their families have sacrificed so much to allow them to be with us.  I could have never gotten through this without them.

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa where I have been employed for 10 years has allowed me to take this time off.  My co workers who donated over 400 hours of vacation time into my vacation time to allow me to stay in GR with Brittney.  The many care packages were also sent too.  What an incredible place to work!  I am blessed to have these people in my life.   

The Grand Traverse Sheriff Department especially Deputy Needham who were first on the accident scene and saved Brittney’s life so she had a chance to survive her injuries.  Also, the EMS team who knew just what to do and to get them to the hospital and then take Brittney to GR as all the med flights were cancelled.  I am so thankful for each of them.

The Munson Hospital Emergency room staff (especially Stephanie) who made all the right decisions that morning.

Cherry Knoll Elementary staff and families who have been so supportive.  Brittney touched so many lives and loved school.  She helped in the office and always helped the other students and teachers.  Brittney has so many friends.

My friends and neighbors who have called to offer any help they can.  Deb gets my mail, Russ mows the lawn, and the others who stop by just to give me a hug when I am home. 

Cindy for always asking how she can help.  Brenda, Camille, and Wendy for doing my job during my absence and never complaining.   

My extended family and all the new friends that have never stopped praying for us.  I am so thankful to have them in our lives.

The people at the website carepages.com that allows us to keep everyone updated.  Brittney’s care page is brittneyruckle if you are interested.

Last but the most important is my son Jordan for being so brave.  He has spent the entire summer living out of a suitcase and has missed his big sister being around.  He has spent more time in hospitals that an 8 year old should.  He is awesome.

October 12, 2011

Paul and Kris – Parents of Brittney


I met Mr. Wonderful, aka Paul Mahon at Jordan’s parent teacher conference at East Middle School.  We were standing in line and knew the same people.  He was nice, kind, and handsome.  I had been divorced since 2006 and then the accident was in 2007 so I had not been on a date in a very long time but he seemed like someone I wanted to talk to again.  The next day at work I found him on LinkenIn and sent him a message.  He responded back and we met for dinner the following week.  I had to bring my friend Kathy as this made me uncomfortable.  Needless to say, the three of us met at North Peak and we hit it off right away.  We continued to see each other when our busy lives allowed.  He was a single dad of two great children.  Samantha was the same age as Jordan (same teachers at the parent teacher conference) and Joe who was four years younger.  We dated for 7 years and he showed me how to live my life again and be happy.  We were cautious to merge our households as the children were our first priority but he eventually sold his home.  We were married on May 9, 2019.  He is an exceptional step dad to Brittney and Jordan.  Samantha is finishing college but comes over when she can.  Joe lives with his mom but comes over almost every week to visit.  We are blessed that we found each other and I will always be thankful that Paul is in our life!  

April 11, 2017

They say that time heals all but I say it just hurts a little less each day.  I wrote the below article and thank you for the Record Eagle 10 years ago. 

Brittney continues to attend the Life Skills Center in Traverse City, daily PT therapies, and is a bright sunshine blessing each day.  

Jordan is graduating from Central High School with honors and playing baseball at Albion College this fall.  He still is the bravest boy I know.

My mom is no longer on this earth with us but she is with us each and every day in our hearts.  

Thank you for always remembering and praying for us.  April 11th will always be that day for us but we choose to Have Patience and Stay Positive!!

July 2018 Brittney Ruckle LLC Hired, Mom Quits Job To Take Care of Daughter

As of 2018, it had been 11 years since that terrible auto crash that changed our lives forever.  We count our blessings each day. I have not always had the resources and support to provide the care needed to Brittney. The local agencies were not able to staff all shifts, so in 2018 I was forced to quit my job of 20 years at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa to care for Brittney. I received no training to be my daughters caregiver, however on the job training and already being her mother was a huge benefit.

Before I was forced to quit my job, we had gone through several home health aids at that time. I stopped counting at 167 aids through our home from 7 local agencies. It’s been a constant battle as these companies don’t have the applicants, don’t pay enough to keep good staff. They have not had the staff that can consistently show up. 

We are thankful to Michigan’s Auto Insurance benefits that helped us through these years and watched Brittney improve through therapies and the few good home health aids that did help with her daily living needs like using the bathroom, bathing, daily hygiene, preparing her meals, cutting it up so she can use her utensils (she only has partial use of her left hand), get her in and out of bed, and many other daily tasks we take for granted.  The one main caregiver (Mary) who is my rock while I am at work is retiring in October of this year.

The current attendant care Auto Owners reimburses me is $13.00 per hour which has not changed in 11 years although I have asked them for a raise for the past 5 years and they refused.  Certainly, nobody can work for this rate and I certainly don’t see how the agencies are able to either.  

I filed my third lawsuit with the insurance company asking for an hourly rate of $25.00 to act like an agency and hire our own staff.  A jury of my peers confirmed that the rate of $22.50 is fair and I agreed.  I will begin this process and plan to quit my job in October so that Brittney can receive the proper care, recovery, and rehabilitation at home!

What you are not prepared for as a caregiver is how mentally and physically exhausting it is. Since she requires 24 hour care, she needs us to be there, be dependable, and know what her needs are.

June 2019 A Sad day to be an auto crash survivor

Our elected officials and our Governor Whitmer signed the new auto reform law PA-21 which will be devastating for the care, recovery, and rehabilitation for Brittney Ruckle and so many like her.  I read this law and it DOES NOT GRANDFATHER her in!  I had a personal conversation with our Senator Schmidt and he told me it did…I corrected him and asked him to read it again.  We will start our battle with Lansing and our elected officials.  We have until July 1, 2021.

July 1, 2021

The past few years we have hired some great caregivers for Brittney and paid them $22.50 an hour.  They have mostly been CNA’s.  They are dependable, hardworking, and fit into our home.  I have tried to supplement local agencies to fill in shift gaps with little to no success.  As her mother, without a job, I have been the one to cover the no show/no calls shifts, no caregiver available shifts, the last minute Covid school shut down in March 2020 that never returned that school year, the last minute Covid school shutdowns, and so many other times that Brittney would has been left without her 24/7 prescribed care.  

I began asking our Auto Insurance adjuster in October 2020 what their plans are with the new law beginning July 1, 2021.  She told me that they did not know and that she would let me know after the new year.  Again, I asked in January and she had no answers.  This continued question was answered the same in our bi monthly calls for the next four months.  In May 2021 she said they started working on it.  In June, they were still working on it and now it was in the MCCA’s hands.  We finally received our Attendant Care Agreement on July 1, 2021 at 1:38 P.M.  In short, this agreement is one sided and does not offer a fair reasonable solution to Brittney receiving her unlimited lifetime benefits she was promised and that we paid for.  If I do not sign this they will only pay me 56 hours at the 45% reduced hourly wage and I will lose her aids as they can’t work for the reduced wage.  

Brittney and Mom

 Brittey still requires 24/7 care and a second person up to 10 hours per day to assist with her home therapy plan which includes therapies, walking with aids, gait trainer, therapy treadmill, balance bar, daily living, bathroom, bathing, meal prep and assistance, and so much more

The biggest struggles I have had a a caregiver over the years have been finding the balance of being her caregiver, case manager, guardian, and mother.  The most waste of our precious time is dealing with our insurance and battling what they will cover, billing, and finding help with her care.

I have been asked what I do for self-care. Being a caregiver on top of regular parenting is exhausting in every way imaginable.  I try to find staff to stay on weekends during the summer and once a month during the school year.

Who will care for her?  I can’t survive on 45% less and only 45 hours.  Her aids can’t take that big of a pay cut.  The agencies already can’t send staff.  Brittney needs 24/7 care which is 168  hours per week and an additional 10 hours a day for her two person therapies, bathroom safety, home exercise plan which is 70 additional hours a week.  That is 238 hours per week to receive the care she was promised to recover! 

This whole ordeal affects our relationship in a unique way. Bittney was only 9 years old when the accident first happened, so I already was her mom…our relationship is very strong and she is the kindest person I know.  She thanks me for taking such good care of her and tells me she loves me everyday.  This is the blessing as most 23 year olds don’t do this.

As far as connecting in relationships with others outside of our household, The Facebook Group “We Can’t Wait” has been the best connection with families like mine.  It’s a club of survivors and caregivers who will never quit on their survivors!

I pray that God keeps me strong and healthy so I can continue this fight for Brittney.  My biggest fear is what happens to her when I can’t.  Who will fight for her and care for her in our home.  I don’t want her in a home without family.

What I want others to learn from our experiences is above all else, to be compassionate for others always!  You never know when your life will change in an instant.  Spend one day in our shoes and then decide how you would do it.  The elected officials in Lansing should NOT decide to change our insurance contract ever.  We should have been grandfathered into the system. 

Now post Covid it’s worse, and then throw in ANF (Auto No Fault) reform that began July 2, 2021 with the fee schedule of 45% reduction in pay….it’s terrible.

I’ve been telling our story for over 14 years but in different ways.  It was time to put in all in one place so I can share with others to help them when put in our place and to tell Lansing that they are making a hard life even harder with the Auto No Fault Law they passed this year in 2021.

Brittney Ruckle – Deserves her care. PLEASE HELP!

Brittney Ruckle

TC State Park goes to mat for disabled

Families worry they’ll fall through the cracks of no-fault insurance reform

State legislators backtrack on no-fault

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