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Stow Family Struggles Caring for Beaten Paramedic

In a small bedroom in the house where he grew up, Bryan Stow sat in a recliner as his 69-year-old father counted to three, ready to lift him from the front, and his 66-year-old mother stood poised to push from behind.

JEMS: Former Paramedic Stow Returns Home 2 Years after Stadium Beating

Caregivers come for an hour or two each morning and evening to help bathe, dress and exercise Stow, the 44-year-old former paramedic who suffered traumatic brain injuries when he was attacked and beaten into a coma in the Dodger Stadium parking lot on opening day in 2011.

The rest of each day, his retired parents care for their son, a divorced father of two who moved home in April after his insurance company decided it would no longer pay for his full-time care in a residential center for traumatic brain-injury rehabilitation.

"My name's Bryan," Stow said slowly, greeting visitors at the modest house near the ocean that Ann and Dave Stow bought for $43,000 in 1975 and recently improved with a wheelchair ramp and accessible bathroom. "I'm a big Giants fan."

Stow's life, and that of his family, changed forever the day of the attack. Two years later, the rest of the world has largely moved on.

The San Francisco Giants -- whose 2010 World Series championship prompted Stow's trip to Los Angeles to celebrate the opening day of the 2011 season -- already have won another World Series. The Dodgers plunged into bankruptcy amid former owner Frank McCourt's financial problems and messy divorce, but McCourt ultimately sold the team to the deep-pocketed Guggenheim Baseball Partners -- turning a $1.278billion profit, the Los Angeles Times reported in April.

Even the Los Angeles Police Department, which descended on Dodger Stadium with a "sea of blue" uniformed officers in the weeks after the attack, is focused these days on another Los Angeles landmark, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, after the fatal stabbing of a 23-year-old woman near there last week.

Stow has made progress -- he was able to attend a World Series game with his family last year as the Giants' guest -- but it has been finite.

"If you ask Bryan what his career is, he is still a paramedic in his head," said his mother, a retired church secretary. "But he will not be a paramedic again. Bryan has holes in his memory. He has something the doctors call confabulation. He will make something up. You can't be a paramedic with that. We don't tell him that."

He cannot go to the restroom unassisted. He can take steps, with the aid of a walker, for only a short distance.

To hear Stow carry on a simple conversation about his children, Tyler, 14, soon to be a high school football player, and Tabitha, 11, is striking progress from the weeks when he lay in a coma at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, his survival in question.

Yet any hope he will fully recover, doctors tell the family, is false.

"He will progress," said his father Dave, a retired ironworker.

"We don't know if he'll be married again. He won't go to work."

Paying for Care

As the Stows adjust to the mixed joy and challenge of having their son at home in what were supposed to be their golden years, Ann and Dave Stow also await a process that moves even more slowly than Bryan's rehabilitation.

The men accused of attacking their son, Louis Sanchez and Marvin Norwood, pleaded not guilty and await a trial date in Los Angeles. A civil suit filed on Stow's behalf against the Dodgers, McCourt and Blue Land, which controls the stadium parking lots, is scheduled for trial in August.

"We don't think about the two guys in jail, what they did," his mother said. "My focus is on taking care of Bryan. They tell us we should come down for the trial, for the jury to see us, but I don't want Bryan there. He doesn't remember anything about that day."

The civil suit is of more importance to the family because it could provide for Bryan's future care. Two of Stow's attorneys estimate his medical expenses so far at more than $5million, and the care needed for the rest of his life will cost tens of millions, they say. In addition to his rehabilitation needs, Stow has suffered from blood clots and other issues that might require surgery. The approaching trial, in fact, could be the reason attorneys encouraged the family to do interviews, as the Stows typically have communicated with the public through the website Support4BryanStow.com.

Dana Fox, an attorney who represents the interests of the Dodgers and McCourt, said under California law the Dodgers were not liable simply because the attack happened on their property. The plaintiff must prove the defendants should have known an assault was likely yet failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it. (The current Dodgers owners, the Guggenheim Partners, are not a party to the suit.) Though Fox called Stow's injuries tragic, he put the blame on the attackers.

Christopher Aumais, an attorney representing Stow, cited previous incidents at the stadium, including the stabbing of a Giants fan on opening day of 2009.

"There have been so many problems at Dodger Stadium," Aumais said. "Even that night, it was a powder keg with Sanchez and Norwood causing problems, verbally assaulting Giants fans, throwing things, getting into altercations. Then on the way out they confront Stow. There was no security in parking lot No. 2, and it took security 15 to 20 minutes to get there. The thing is, it's America's pastime, you have a few beers, watch the game, you don't expect to go out and end up in a wheelchair the rest of your life."

After the attack, a report in the Los Angeles Times noted the Dodgers had fired their security chief the December before the attack and had not hired a permanent replacement by opening day. After Los Angeles Police Department detectives noted the stadium parking lots had been so dark that surveillance video was almost useless, the Dodgers lit up the previously dim lots with huge portable light standards that remain two years later.

Difficult Burden

The Stows, who long ago adopted what his parents and two adult sisters call a "no-cry zone" around Bryan to avoid deflating him, know the legal proceedings will end, but for them the story never will.

The level of daily care Bryan needs, for the rest of his life, cannot be ignored, his attorneys say.

"I worry a little bit, because it's so embarrassing, but these are the facts," Stow attorney Tom Girardi said. "He really needs someone with him. His family now has this burden, and it's very difficult for the family. It isn't the love involved, because there is a lot of devotion involved. But it's very difficult."

Stow's former employer, American Medical Response, kept him on paid leave until 2012, his mother said. He is on long-term disability and Social Security disability and still makes child-support payments.

The family has received proceeds from fundraisers and donations, big and small.

"He gets so many cards," his father said. "One letter came, an envelope with no return address. It had two dollars in it. I think it must have been from a little old lady or some children."

His parents are also aware of their own limitations.

"At our age, anything could happen," Ann Stow said. "He has sisters, but both of them work full time. He does not need full-time nursing care, but he needs someone with him 24 hours a day."

Others try to tell the family there will be a resolution.

"People talk about closure," his mother said.

"It can't be closed," his father said. "Bryan's always going to be in a wheelchair. It won't be closed. I say that, but I think he'll walk. I really do."


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