Tampa VA garage mishap causes paralyzed homeless vet to fall from wheelchair

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Homeless paraplegic Bryan Hillsman did not want to sleep in his truck.

He followed the advice of a friend who suggested going to James A. Haley Medical Center for possible admittance into the facility until his social worker could help him find a permanent place to live.

Hillsman, 57, has been there ever since – 19 days – but not without unwanted and unexpected pain.

Bryan Hillsman

According to “progress notes” provided by the army veteran to 8 On Your Side, a doctor in Haley’s garage ER triage unit wanted the army veteran admitted to the facility’s spinal cord injury (SCI) unit.

But a doctor inside Haley disagreed and “would not admit nor see the patient for disposition,” the document states.

Hillsman was eventually allowed to be brought inside Haley.

From his hospital bed, he recalled what happened next as a VA staffer pushed him the estimated 400 yards from the garage to the hospital.

“I was actually on the phone reaching out to more homeless resources,” Hillsman said. “And before I knew it, I was on the concrete.”

The paperwork states, “the wheelchair hit a bump” and Hillsman “fell out of the chair.”

Hillsman called the description “misleading” since it omits that a VA employee was pushing the wheelchair when it hit the bump, and he emphasized he did not just fall from the chair.

“The impact jarred me out. All I remember was the chair abruptly [hitting the bump] and me going up into the air,” Hillsman said. “[The VA employee] stumbled over the back of me. She’s hysterical. The pain was excruciating.”

Haley’s Public Affairs Officer Shayna Rodriguez said she would look into the Feb. 15 incident, but has not provided a statement from the hospital or any other details yet.

Hillsman said he has been treated for abrasions and soreness in his back, left shoulder and elbow.

“My whole left side hurts,” Hillsman said.

The Tampa resident, who served in the Army, was paralyzed in a 2016 West Palm Beach vehicle crash. Hillsman said he had an apartment through the Veterans of America (VOA), but he claims it was “filthy” when he moved in on the first week of February.

Hillsman said after he complained he was asked to leave the facility. A VOA spokesperson said Hillsman was asked to leave after he wouldn’t sign required paperwork.

Hillsman does not know how much longer he will be hospitalized but acknowldges he’s concerned about what happens when he gets out.

“I don’t know where I’m going to live. I hope my social worker can help,” Hillsman said. “I’m praying that I don’t end up homeless again.”

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April 24 2021 08:00 am

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