UW-Whitewater students recently held a fundraiser for local resident, UW-W graduate and traumatic brain injury survivor Thomas Hapka at Salamone’s in Fort Atkinson. From the left, students Starr Lee, a founding member of Life Beyond Brain Injury, and Hannah Maes and Hapka. (Submitted photo)

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater alum and longtime local resident Thomas Hapka has been receiving a lot of help from the newest generation of students from his alma mater.

Hapka suffered a life-threatening brain injury when an artery in his neck was torn. Nearly three days passed and Hapka almost died before a regional medical center diagnosed the brain injury.

Hapka never received a settlement and all legal remedies have been exhausted. He continues to struggle with physical impairments that limit his ability to work, and the cost of his injury has reached the high six figures, according to a news release.

Hapka’s story inspired UW-Whitewater students to create Life Beyond Brain Injury. The project is raising funds for Hapka’s ongoing medical needs while sponsoring brain injury awareness activities.

Hannah Maes, a double major in entrepreneurship and international business, said she hopes Hapka’s saga can be used to raise awareness about traumatic brain injuries.

“Tom has faced so many injustices, and his entire life was seriously damaged by this single incident,” Maes said in the news release. “I hope this effort can educate people about the early warning signs of a TBI, so those who are injured get treatment as soon as possible.”

Life Beyond Brain Injury recently received support from the UW-Whitewater football program. Head coach Kevin Bullis and retired Hall of Fame head coach Bob Berezowitz attended a post-game reception for the organization where they signed a game-worn Warhawk football helmet that will be auctioned off for Hapka’s fund at a later date.

Students also organized another fundraiser for Hapka recently at Salamone’s Italian Pizzeria in Fort Atkinson.

Members of Life Beyond Brain Injury spoke and conducted a test airing of a new brain injury awareness commercial starring Hapka. The ad will be launched formally at an event in early December.

“When it comes to brain injuries and strokes, time lost is brain lost,” Maes said to a gathering of patrons at Salamone’s. “Delays in care can result in permanent brain damage, and in some cases, death.
“Tom barely survived his stroke, and many others aren’t so lucky,” she added.

Visit LifeBeyondBrainInjury.org, call 262-458-4090 or email to info@LifeBeyondBrainInjury.org for more information.


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