There is not the slightest hint of bitterness or anger as Barbara Tedrowe recalls her heartbreak: Her son Darrin-a star athlete, a college student and a newlywed-was critically injured in a 1983 motorcycle accident that rendered him a quadriplegic, confining him to a wheelchair for more than 20 years until kidney failure claimed his life in 2004. During the time Barbara helped care for him, she found support in a little-known industry organization: The Floor Covering Industry Foundation.
"I just want people to know how much FCIF helped me, and how much they helped Darrin," Barbara, a Texas native who now lives in Mira Loma, Calif., said. "The level of support was amazing. They helped with the medical expenses, they helped pay for a [specially equipped] van for Darrin. And it wasn't a one-time thing. FCIF helped me the entire time."
Barbara was working at Foamex International at the time of Darrin's accident, and heard about the foundation from a manager there. As someone who always tried to fend for herself, she was reluctant to ask for assistance. It was only after Darrin's marriage broke up and he came to live with her in 1984 that she contacted the FCIF.
"I really didn't think I was the type of person who would be eligible for that type of assistance," says Barbara, who has worked virtually her entire career in the flooring industry and regularly attended the Surfaces Convention and Trade Show. "I mean, I was in kind of a low-level job, but the people at the FCIF didn't care about that. The only question they asked was ‘How can we help?'"
While some of Darrin's expenses were covered by insurance, there was a huge gap that the FCIF helped to fill. "It was very, very expensive to care for Darrin," Barbara said. "We had to build ramps. We had to have a nurse. But FCIF helped us every step of the way."
Barbara recalls that although Darrin was confined to a wheelchair, he refused to be idle. Surgery four years after the accident restored some mobility in his hands. He continued attending college ("He got straight As," Barbara said with a mother's pride), landed a high-tech job at a computer firm and even prepared the family's tax returns. In 1989, when Barbara married Richard Tedrowe, the groom asked Darrin to be his best man.
In 1990, the family got a scare when Darrin was rushed to the hospital with emergency kidney failure. Although this once highly athletic, six-foot-four-inch young man's weight dropped to 139 pounds, he again fought back and survived.
But ultimately, the toll of his injury was too great. Darrin passed away in July 2004. He was 43.
His passing did not sever Barbara's ties to the FCIF. Though she had often expressed her gratitude to the foundation though cards, letters and regular updates on her son's condition, Darrin's death set Barbara on a mission. She eagerly talks about how her family was aided for nearly two decades by the foundation, traveling to industry functions to tell her story and urge people to help the FCIF.
"Darrin was the kind of son every mother hopes she has," Barbara said. "He was so quick witted and had such a great sense of humor. Of course he was bitter at first, but he was so positive and handled his disability so well. All the while, he was such an important part of our lives. We could not have done it without the FCIF. Now, I just want people to know how much the FCIF helped us."
How the FCIF Helped One Family Touched by Tragedy
January 24, 2006