Robbie Poupart of Hahnville sees his friend struggling through a hardship that months ago was unimaginable, yet still refusing to let his problems darken the days of those around him.
“Jonathan shows up to work every day with a smile on his face,” said Poupart of Jonathan Bruce, his friend and often co-worker of 25 years. “Even with everything he’s facing.”
The two know one another through a shared love of the car world – Poupart does performance work with race cars and the two often collaborate on things, and Poupart often helps Bruce with the latter’s Kenner business.
“We hit it off from Day One,” Poupart said. “He’s a truly great guy. I’m not the best guy in the world, everyone has their flaws and all. But he is, hands down, a fantastic guy, and anyone that’s ever met him would tell you the same.”
Bruce, 37, is going through a very trying time, however, due to an ongoing health situation that began about nine months ago during a dinner outing for Bruce and his wife.
“They were walking into the restaurant and his arm was around her, and then he started having some twitching going on,” Poupart said. “She asked, ‘What are you doing?’ and he said he wasn’t doing it, that he had no control of it.”
The situation escalated: Bruce was having a seizure and had to be brought to the hospital for care and examination. His hospital stay brought a diagnosis of a cavernous malformation, an angioma – or two-centimeter vascular tumor – located in his brain’s motor cortex. It’s benign but still problematic as it’s prone to bleeding and, if left untreated, could lead to permanent brain damage resulting in loss of mobility among other difficulties.
Bruce’s seizure was not his last, and it’s caused on and off paralysis of the left side of his body. Medicine has curtailed the volume of seizures, but he still regularly suffers from intense headaches, one incident of that led to a visit to the emergency room.
For the most part, the medicine has allowed him to resume day to day life. But it’s a bandaid solution at best: Bruce requires surgery to remove the angioma and has been referred to a surgeon in Phoenix who specializes in his particular condition and has an extremely high success rate dealing with the problem.
Bruce’s insurance, governed by a non-traditional private sharing group, has been unwilling to cover the surgery at the location Bruce’s neurologist recommended. This battle has been drawn out, difficult and costly and is still uncertain, Poupart said.
Though at this time it looks as if they are starting to negotiating the coverage of some of the very costly surgery itself there are still unknowns and a lot of medical bills piled up along with the other many extra expenses, including paying for travel to and from Phoenix, a hotel for his wife, Maria, during his hospital stay and for both of them during part of his recovery before he’s cleared to travel home, and perhaps several weeks away from his business while recovering. The couple has a young daughter to care for, as well.
“The unfortunate fact is the cash price of this surgery is $155,000,” Poupart said. “But for insurance to cover it, the charge is $450,000. I’m not sure how that all works, but I feel like the insurance company would be more likely to pay for it were it the cash price … it just seems like more people would get the care they need.
“That neurosurgeon is the only one who has a 100 percent success rate with this situation … he’s considered the world’s leading authority on it. It’s not really an option for him to just go to someone else, especially because there’s a lot that can go wrong with this due to the tumor’s location. If something goes even a little wrong, he could lose the ability to move his arm … it’s crazy.”
It’s led Poupart to start a GoFundMe for Bruce, titled “Brain surgery for Jonathan” that has already raised nearly $55,000, and he plans to put on a car show to raise further funds in the coming weeks.
He began the GoFundMe page despite a bit of protest from his friend.
“He’s really against doing this kind of thing … he thinks other people would have more pressing things, and I just have to tell him, ‘Jonathan, yours is pretty important,’” Poupart said. “This has already been delayed with all the insurance haggling and it’s a ticking time bomb. People have really stepped up to help … that’s a testament to him. He’d give you the shirt off his back.”
Poupart offered a quick anicdote to illustrate that.
“A friend of ours recently was in a car accident and the car caught fire, in New Jersey … he had third degree burns,” Poupart said. “And they had a GoFundMe, and I found out from someone else Jonathan donated to that one, as we have one for him. And I mean, that’s the way he is. The guy works around the clock to provide for his family. He puts them first. He puts everyone else first.
“If anyone ever deserved to get some help, it’s that guy. I tell people, even if you can’t donate, just share the page because a dollar here, a dollar there … it can make the difference.”