A social worker in a group home for the disabled almost lost his life trying to save residents when a tornado decimated much of Joplin, Missouri this spring. Now, his company’s insurance provider is denying him workman’s compensation.

During the May 22 tornado, Mark Lindquist, 51, covered three men with Down’s Syndrome with a mattress and laid on top of it to weigh it down, but the effort proved futile. Not only did the men he was protecting die, but Lindquist himself was thrown nearly a block. The trauma broke all his ribs, obliterated his shoulder, knocked out most of his teeth and left him in a coma for about two months.

Today, after a recovery doctors have called miraculous, his right arm remains in a sling, but he retains the use his hand. An eye that was temporarily blinded has full sight, and although he moves slowly and has short-term memory loss, he speaks well.

He’s been hailed as a hero by both houses of the Missouri legislature, but his job didn’t pay enough for him to have medical insurance. He’s now saddled with medical bills exceeding $2.5 million and must pay for his 11 required daily prescriptions out-of-pocket.

Lindquist had hoped workman’s comp would cover some of the expenses, but a letter from Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, his company’s provider, said his claim was denied “based on the fact that there was no greater risk than the general public at the time you were involved in the Joplin tornado.”

His sister finds the ruling ludicrous, saying that if Lindquist hadn’t been at work, he wouldn’t have been hurt. And Rep. Bill Lant, R-Joplin, said, “I think they need to take another look at the circumstances and revisit the claim. What he did went beyond heroics.”

Jahn Hurn, CEO of Community Support Services, said the agency has asked Accident Fund Insurance to reconsider Lindquist’s case, and he has legal options as well.

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