When the Joplin tornado hit, social worker Mark Lindquist was working for Community Support Services at a group home where three men with Down syndrome lived. “I loved them almost as much as I love my own kid,” Lindquist recalls. They couldn’t move quickly enough to relocate, and the home had no basement or shelter, so Lindquist and a co-worker threw mattresses over the men and climbed on top to hold them down. The twister threw Lindquist almost a block, where he was found under the rubble with flesh torn off, all of his ribs broken, and most of his teeth knocked out. The three men he was trying to save were killed. Lindquist’s recovery defied doctor’s expectations, but he also racked up more than $2.5 million in medical bills—with more to come—and his workers’ compensation insurance won’t cover the claim.
Lindquist, 51, could not afford medical insurance on his earnings, which were little more than minimum wage. The Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, which provides workers’ comp for Lindquist’s employer, informed him in a letter that his claim was denied “based on the fact that there was no greater risk than the general public at the time you were involved in the Joplin tornado,” the AP reports. Community Support Services’ CEO has asked the agency to reconsider; if they don’t, Lindquist can ask the Missouri Division of Workers Compensation to intervene. Both houses of the Missouri legislature have honored Lindquist, and a state representative also wants the insurance company to reconsider, saying, “What he did went beyond heroics.”