NORWICH – An article published on Feb. 19 in The Evening Sun told the story of a local humanitarian stranded abroad after sustaining life-threatening injuries.
A local hero in his own right, Norwich resident Jeff Neadom was in dire straits; clinging to life in a third-world hospital — and had it not been for his tight knit family and hometown friends, Neadom's story might have ended quite differently.
“Once I arrived at his bedside in the Kingston Hospital, I knew immediately that he was in very critical condition – and that we had to get him home,” said Amanda Downey, Neadom's niece who also happens to be a nurse.
Downey and another family member chose to travel to Jamaica to assess and care for their ailing uncle, who had not been receiving adequate medical care, medications or the proper antibiotics prior to their arrival to the deceivingly sunny island.
After reporting back to the family mainland, Downey and the Neadom clan knew that getting Jeff proper care – which meant somehow getting him back home – was a matter of life or death.
“We take a lot of what we have here in the States for granted,” said Neadom's brother, Charles – who was instrumental in managing Jeff's care from afar. “Once we realized how serious the situation really was, everyone in the family was trying to figure out a way to get him home.”
Charles recounts that the family began seeking assistance from the U.S. Embassy's office, mere blocks from were Neadom was hospitalized. “They [the Embassy] said that they would send someone to check in on the welfare of Jeff, and they never did, we were very disappointed with that” said Charles. In speaking with U.S. Senators Charles Schumer's office, it became apparent that the government was going to be of no assistance in getting Neadom home, leaving the family to put their heads together and plan a strategy on their own. “We didn't have time for the Senators office to contact the State department and issue a mandates to the Embassy; we were out of time,” said Charles.
But getting Jeff back on U.S. soil while on the far side of deaths door proved to be a monumental task both logistically and financially. “Before the Jamaican hospital would discharge him, we had to pay his bills in cash, which were close to $10,000 at that point,” said Charles.
In addition to the challenges that Downey, Neadom and the family faced on the foreign end, finding an ICU with an available bed at home, and then locating a doctor to accept the case – sight unseen – presented yet another labyrinth of red tape. All this before arranging payment with a flight company to transport the critical Neadom from Jamaica to Syracuse, to the tune of $30,000.
When all was said and done, the family had sourced nearly $40,000 to make the necessary a reality for Jeff.
“[Jeff] wasn't able to just hop on a plane and get a lift home, he needed to be monitored and cared for though the flight, it was a very delicate situation,” said Neadom.
While a pair of “gofundme” crowd funding sites have managed to generate just over an astonishing $15,000, the Neadom Family was fortunate to have the help of an anonymous lender who put forth an additional $25,000 to get Jeff home and in good care.
“We had a close family friend that understood the situation and lent the family the cash on good faith,” said Charles. “Without that, we'd still be looking for a way to get Jeff home.”
According to the Neadom family, it was the contributions of hundreds of anonymous donors though the gofundme campaigns along with the substantial loan that have kept Neadom alive and in recovery.
“This person who donated the large sum isn't someone who has a lot of money, they aren't particularly wealthy and had saved that money for their own personal health care needs in the future,” said Neadom.
Upon arrival to Upstate Hospital in Syracuse, Neadom's health was in a much worse state than had been reported to doctors from the Jamaican physicians. Neadom needed immediate treatment and underwent a number of operations to address multiple injuries and infections.
This Saturday, beginning at 2 p.m., a special benefit to raise funds for Jeff's medical expenses will be held at Taylor's Country House (Butch's) on King's Settlement Road in the Town of Norwich. A cover charge of $10 will gain entry into a day full of live music, chinese auction, bake sale as well as a 50/50 raffle and plenty of food.
For more information about the benefit, contact Mary Neadom at 334-8108. All donations, items for raffles and auction are welcome, and donations can be dropped off at Butch's on the day of Benefit.
“I have given to many charities over the years, and they were all for a good cause,” said Charles Neadom. “But the people that have donated and those who come out to support Jeff at the benefit can know that their contributions saved Jeff's life. Had it not been for our community, I'm certain Jeff wouldn't be with us.”