Chris Layne doesn’t get out of the house very often. When he does, the prospect of being in a car is horrifying.
The last time the 40-year-old Virginia native drove a car himself was in October 2013, when he was involved in a wreck that led to traumatic brain injury and post-concussive syndrome.
Since that time, he began to experience seizures. He’s had over 30 concussions and subsequently hundreds of stitches and staples from losing consciousness and falling, hitting his head. His knees are “blown out now from all the falls.”
And the episodes don’t seem to be letting up. He had three seizures last week, alone.
“I can’t even name how many ambulances I’ve had pick me up from here,” Layne said of the home off Dukes Lake Road in Zebulon where he lives with his girlfriend Tina Wall and her mother, Stephanie England. “I go out sometimes just to not go crazy, but it’s very limited. The car trips alone are still just terrifying.”
The car trip that left Layne with that fear occurred in Virginia after he left home early one morning to get food for his daughter and son. He had a vertigo attack along the way, collided with a boat being towed by a truck and his car went airborne, coming to rest after striking a guardrail.
He declined medical transport and rode home with the wrecker, only to become unresponsive later on and have Wall and his daughter get him to the car and the hospital.
Physical therapy helped some but his progression was slow. Layne was referred to neurologists at the University of Virginia Medical Center. He was seen there three times without insurance – which lapsed when he was unable to keep his job as an electrician.
Doctors at UVA did several tests and ultimately confirmed Layne’s original diagnosis, also finding one of his shoulders was an inch lower and one of his eyes was off-center.
About that time, Layne lost his house. England opened hers up to the couple and they moved to Zebulon in June 2014.
“We didn’t have nowhere to go,” Layne said. “That’s how I ended up down here.”
He tried to go back to work, but he collapsed on his first day back on the job. With medical bills surpassing $150,000, and the ongoing costs of co-pays and medication, Wall turned to the internet in hopes of finding financial help for her boyfriend.
“I am putting this in God’s hands,” Wall posted on a GoFundMe account she created. “Any help anyone can give Chris to help with travel expenses for doctor appointments, medication and with doing little things with his kids (because it is so important for them to have good memories and not spend their time with dad worrying).”
The amount of activity on the account shocked Layne, who also takes medication for emotional distress brought on by the whole predicament.
In three months, 280 people had raised nearly $8,800 toward the goal of $10,000. Many who don’t even know Layne are going beyond just monetary donations, offering tips on how to use the money or other methods to help keep him out of harm’s way as he copes with the seizures.
“It’s restoring my faith in humanity – just strangers who have reached out to me and donated and sent me emails on the hard days when I wasn’t doing so well,” he said. “Just an email can really change the way you feel, especially in my place where I am stuck here.”
Layne badly wants to become unstuck.
“I’ve always been an independent, hard-working man, and now it’s difficult for me to even accept help,” he said. “I don’t want to be a burden on anyone. I just want to see my kids grown up.”
He spends most of his day doing anything productive he can do while sitting down. He writes, and he is a graphic artist, but it is difficult for him to be on a computer for long periods of time because it gives him migraines.
After three years of being denied, Layne continues to pursue Social Security disability benefits. He recently got linked up with an advocate who filed a dire-need petition and got him an accelerated trial, which took place earlier this month. Judgment could come within the next two months, and, if granted, he could receive benefits within six months following the decision.
He also has a change.org petition he hopes will raise awareness for both himself and for others going through similar difficulties. Last week, that petition had nearly 72,000 supporters.
“It’s bigger than me,” he said. “There are others out there.”
Layne recently learned he has been approved for further testing by the Duke neurology program. He’s awaiting a date for his first appointment there.