Whitewater Students Launch Fundraiser for Brain Injury Survivor

September 25, 2019


WHITEWATER, WI – UW-Whitewater students have launched a fundraising campaign for a Wisconsin man who nearly died from a massive brain injury when he suffered a dissected vertebral artery during a chiropractic appointment.


48-year-old Thomas Hapka of Whitewater was 29 at the time of the accident and 18 years later has never received a legal settlement due to deficiencies in Wisconsin’s malpractice statutes. Hapka is now in danger of losing his home.


Medical records show Hapka suffered a massive stroke during a chiropractic appointment when his vertebral artery was dissected. Records further indicate the local ER never ordered a brain scan and misdiagnosed Hapka with an ear infection. Hapka was close to death by the time a large regional medical center diagnosed the brain injury more than two days later.


Hannah Maes, a double major in Entrepreneurship and International Business, hopes Hapka’s story can be used to raise awareness and save lives.


“When it comes to brain injuries, time lost is brain lost,” Maes said. “Delays in care can be fatal. Tom barely survived his late diagnosis, and many others aren’t so lucky.”


Hapka’s story inspired students from UW-Whitewater to create Life Beyond Brain Injury. The group is raising funds for Hapka’s ongoing medical needs and organizing events for Brain Injury Awareness Month.


Life Beyond Brain held a Brain Injury Policy Day Town Hall with Wisconsin lawmakers on Tuesday, March 19th in the Whitewater City Council Chamber. Senator Janis Ringhand, Senator Steve Nass, and Representative Don Vruwink joined members of the community and Life Beyond Brain Injury in discussing Hapka’s injury and possible policy solutions.


After hearing testimony from brain injury survivor Thomas Hapka, Wisconsin State Senator Steve Nass remarked on the importance of sharing survivor's stories to inform lawmakers on vital issues.

“Whether it is this particular issue or others, being …  brave enough to tell your story that’s how the legislature educates itself on issues it otherwise wouldn’t” – State Senator Steve Nass.

Logan McHone, a senior Communication major at UW-Whitewater, found cause for optimism in the town hall.

“There is so much misinformation about traumatic brain injuries, and I’m excited that lawmakers

showed interest in the issue and came together to discuss policy solutions.” McHone said.

After the town hall, Wisconsin State Representative Don Vruwink remarked on the gravity of brain injuries and their wide reaching effects.

"What people need to know is that a brain injury not only affects the person with the injury but their whole family as well," Vruwink said.


Those interested in donating, volunteering or learning more are encouraged to visit LifeBeyondBrainInjury.org.



We are a community organization that supports local brain injury survivor Tom Hapka and raises awareness about traumatic brain injuries.

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