Michigan Family From India Fights to Free Son From Those Cashing In on Old Traumatic Brain Injury

Tom Nithyanand once dreamt of a normal life, but now has a different goal: freedom from the grasps of those taking his traumatic brain injury to the bank. There's just one problem: the people who have the most influence in freeing him are the same ones who have the most to lose financially by letting him go.

Tom Nithyanand once dreamt of a normal life, but now has a different goal: freedom from the grasps of those taking his traumatic brain injury to the bank.

There’s just one problem: the people who have the most influence in freeing him are the same ones who have the most to lose financially by letting him go.

"Our son is trapped in this system. We feel that many only saw this as an opportunity to take advantage of a family who asked for help. We want to warn others how the system can work against them, as well - so hopefully they can learn from Tom."

Anand Sadashivan, Father of Son Trapped

It’s the kind of situation that has lawmakers in Michigan’s neighboring Ohio drafting legislation to prevent such exploitation, according to a recent editorial by the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch newspaper.

“Our son is trapped in this system,” says Anand Sadashivan, Tom’s father. “We feel that many only saw this as an opportunity to take advantage of a family who asked for help. We want to warn others how the system can work against them, as well – so hopefully they can learn from Tom.”

Tom Nithyanand, 21, lives in Farmington Hills, Mich., with his father (Anand), step-mother, and toddler sister.

On June 26, 2010, Tom, then 17, was walking home from a friend’s house when a vicious-looking dog lunged at him from out of nowhere, causing him to run into the street, whereupon he was struck by a car.

For a month, Tom clung to life in a coma at Detroit area medical facilities. When he was discharged in October, he went to Rainbow Rehabilitation in Farmington Hills. He was there three weeks before a doctor determined Tom’s best hope for recovery lie with him living at home with his family.

Anand, a management analyst, dedicated his life to making sure his son recovered – taking him to physical, speech, and occupational therapy appointments throughout metro Detroit.

There were bumps – school was a challenge – but overall, Tom progressed well. While continuing with his various out-patient therapies, his speech and memory came back. He was able to get back to normal activities for people his age – playing video games and teaching himself to use the latest tech gadgets, going to music concerts, hanging out with friends. Tom even joined a band called Sacred Fern.

In short, Tom’s life had been delayed, but not ended, by the accident that nearly left him dead.

“After the accident, we came so close to losing Tom,” says Anand. “You never get over the image of your own flesh and blood lying in a hospital bed, in a coma. Never. So to be part of his recovery, to see him get back to a normal life – it was a dream come true.

“To watch him go backwards in the last year has been like some kind of horrible nightmare.”

Asking for Help
As a young boy, Tom moved to Columbus, Ohio, from India with his family in 2003. His parents divorced in 2004 and Tom’s father was given full custody. The two eventually moved to metro Detroit to be close to friends and for the good schools. Everything went smooth until the day Tom was struck by that car.

Typical of such accidents, the family received an insurance settlement through the driver of the vehicle that hit Tom. The family does not wish to discuss the amount.

Until early 2014 – and as Anand dealt with filing the proper paperwork relating to his immigration status in the U.S. – the money was held by the family’s attorney who had been dealing with court proceedings relating directly to the accident.

Anand is not a U.S. citizen. As a result, the family needed a court-appointed co-guardian/conservator to legally manage the insurance money Tom received from his near-death experience.

When legal activities relating to the original accident concluded, the attorney took her cut and recommended the family ask for a co-guardian and conservator, who would be appointed by the court. Families can request to work with specific guardians/conservators.

It was recommended by the attorney that – while Anand's immigration papers worked their way through the system - the family use a professional guardian/conservator based in metro Detroit named Steven Siporin.

Siporin met with Anand and Tom two times before being appointed co-guardian (with Anand)/conservator by the court in early 2014. He ensured he would work with them and foster Tom’s continued recovery – take good care of him and manage the situation.

Siporin, founder of Royal Oak, Mich.-based Siporin & Associates, has been named a guardian and/or conservator on 25 cases in Oakland County alone since 2002.

Also, on the Siporin & Associates website, Siporin’s bio claims he has helped manage finances of companies such as General Motors and Arthur Andersen.

With someone like Siporin at the helm – his experience in Oakland County’s court system and an apparent strong background in finance – the family felt confident he was perfect to help them. Further convincing the family that Siporin was the best choice was the fact he had so few cases in Oakland County. Many media stories quote guardians as saying extremely heavy caseloads are the main reason their wards don’t get personal attention.

But the family’s positive feelings toward Siporin changed fast.

Learn From Tom
One day last June, Tom and Anand got into a verbal argument over spending money for an evening Tom had planned with friends – a typical argument for young adults and parents.

Tom mentioned the yelling argument to his case manager who was working close with Siporin, still co-guardian at the time. Full five days later representatives of Siporin showed up with court authorization that made him temporary full guardian and authorized him to rip Tom away from his home and take him to Rainbow Rehabilitation.

On July 23, Siporin managed to convince the court he should be sole guardian of Tom – cutting Tom’s father out of any decisions relating to Tom’s medical and financial activities. At a six-month review in February, a hearing was set for May 4 - Tom would be at Rainbow for another three months and the money for his care would keep flowing into the pockets of those who had the power to recommend his release.

“In a very short time we we went from asking the system to help us work through what was essentially a technical issue regarding finance to watching our son get taken away after we got into an argument over money for going to the movies,” says Anand. “It has left our heads spinning.”

Not wanting to cause trouble for his son, Anand has had no choice but to watch from afar - and the confusion continues. Among the baffling aspects:l

  • Since the court appointed Siporin sole guardian – and to this day – he has never sat down to talk with Tom and family
  • When he was removed as “co-guardian,” Anand was completely cut off from knowing anything about his son’s medical care, treatment, or plans for recovery
  • Though Tom was taken away from his home essentially because of a normal verbal parent/child argument, Tom has been allowed to go home on weekends since the beginning of 2015 without incident
  • Tom has been prevented from celebrating Hindu holidays – such as Holi on March 6 – yet the center recognizes other holidays such as Christmas
  • Just this week, Tom says he was told the psychiatrist he has been working with for two years will no longer be treating him for no apparent reason

“It feels like I am being punished for something,” says Tom. “I was hit by a car. I almost died. I am recovering from a traumatic brain injury. This system I’m stuck in – it makes me feel like some kind of criminal because of those things.”

The next chance Tom could be out of Rainbow Rehabilitation is after May 4-5, when a court hearing is scheduled on the matter in Oakland County Probate Court.

More information about Tom can be found at http://learnfromtom.com/.
Photos of Tom can be found at http://learnfromtom.com/index.php/photos/.
Media should go to http://learnfromtom.com/index.php/media-inquiries/.

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Categories: Healthcare, Medical, Law

Tags: brain injury, conservator, detroit, farmington hills, guardianship, michigan, novi, rainbow rehabilitation