A Victim of the Minneapolis Riots Needs Our Help

Close to midnight on mai 29, the third day of the riots, Launette Figliuzzi’s life was going to forever change. Unable to sleep, she was in the kitchen to get a snack when she felt an unexplainable and intense neurological pain in her back. Her alarmed husband, Tom, immediately called an ambulance and they took her to the Fairview Hospital in Princeton, MN, about 10 miles from their home. Little did Tom know he wouldn’t hold his wife’s hand again for the next three months. 

The doctor there believed Launette had suffered a spinal stroke and that time was crucial. The hospital had called for a medical helicopter to airlift her to Fairview Southdale Hospital of Edina, MN since it was best equipped to handle this kind of rare stroke. Later they were informed the medical helicopters had been grounded due to the heavy air traffic as a result of the uncontrolled riots. 

Delayed Medical Care Due to the Riots

Instead, they transported her by ground; however, due to the riots, all of the major highways had been closed. This caused the ambulance to be rerouted down many side streets, causing huge delays in her care. 

By the time Launette arrived at Fairview Southdale, her paralysis had moved up to her waist and shortly thereafter, up to her chest. After multiple MRI’s, a diagnosis of a spinal stroke was confirmed. However, tragically, by then it was too late for Launette to receive the drug used to break up blood clots and halt and/or reverse the damage caused by the stroke.

That night, as Launette lay frightened and all alone in her hospital room due to COVID regulations, she couldn’t quite grasp she had become permanently paralyzed from the chest down and that her life was irreparably altered. Fortunately, she was later transferred to the Minneapolis VA hospital, which is known for its top-rated Spinal Cord Injury Center. She is still an inpatient there, receiving excellent care and undergoing extensive therapy.

Anger Sets In

As the months pass by, Tom can’t help but be frustrated and angry that his wife was denied access to timely medical care due to the riots. He is certain immediate treatment would have been instrumental in keeping her paralysis from setting in. If the authorities had been allowed to control the riots, she would have had access to quicker aid with the use of the air ambulance. The mayhem and violence allowed to go unchecked for three whole days by state and local officials directly impacted Launette’s access to the critical care she so desperately needed. 

A Silent Casualty of the Riots

In the media, Launette has remained a silent casualty. She has become collateral damage due to riots that have been portrayed by the media as “mostly peaceful protests.” As a result, Launette is permanently paralyzed from her chest to her toes. 

Tom Figliuzzi explained, “Launette is such a positive person, but it does bother her when she hears commentary coming from the state and city leadership proclaiming that the damage is only bricks and mortar…” 

Launette said, “The governor needs to know I am not bricks and mortar, I’m a real, live human being who is now paralyzed for the rest of my life.”

Deserving of our Help

If anyone deserves help, it is Launette, who is a mom/bonus mom to 5 kids and grandmother to 13 grandchildren. She served 22 years in the US Army and retired achieving the rank of Master Sergeant (E-8). She then served another 15 years as the County Veterans Service Officer in Sherburne and Wright County MN, and in Cass County, North Dakota. She has helped thousands of veterans obtain their earned benefits and now, ironically, she desperately needs that same kind of help for herself.

How Next Day Access has Helped

We have worked with the VA to get Launette more accessibility in her home. When asked what he thought about the service he has received from Next Day Access, Tom said, “I have nothing but genuine love for the people at Next Day Access. They’re very empathetic. I want to commend Bill who helped install a threshold ramp from the VA (not one of Next Day Access products) free of charge. Who does that these days? I also want to give praises to April, the heart and soul of the branch. She makes sure everything gets ordered and is on time. She literally cried when one of the parts didn’t arrive on time. I also really appreciate Chris, the owner, who reached out to give his take on a bathroom modification.” 

According to Tom, “Next Day Access professionalism goes beyond just their jobs. These are real people with real families and they really care.” 

How You Can Help

Some have asked why Launette needs a fundraiser when she utilizes the VA. Unfortunately, there is a false impression that the VA provides everything a veteran needs when they are discharged. Although the VA provides basic immobility ramps and safety devices, most veterans bear the financial burden for home adaptations, vehicles, and specialized equipment. Of course, there are exceptions, but she does not fall within those parameters. 

At the urging of family, friends, and others who know and love Launette and Tom, a GoFundMe account has been set up. It was a hard decision to accept the help, as they are from backgrounds that don’t ask or impose on others. But now, they themselves need to overcome a huge financial burden that neither of them could have imagined. 

One large expense they need funding for is a specialized wheelchair. This wheelchair has the ability to not only transport but it can help Launette with therapy. It raises her into a standing position for better circulation and for weight-bearing on her limbs to prevent osteoporosis. This is a very costly wheelchair and is well out of their means. They would use any extra monies raised for home adaptations so they are able to remain in the home they love.

If you are able to donate any amount of money towards these items, click here to visit their GoFundMe page. Tom and Launette want to thank you in advance for your generosity.