Every patient has a story...

Tom Ackerson

Tom is the embodiment of fearlessness, fun and fortitude.  He has been confined to a wheelchair since he was four years old and has not let that stop him from living life to the fullest.

Tom grew up in Bridgeport with his mom and sisters.  He was the recipient of much love and care from his family as he was home schooled and spent much time in and around his Bridgeport home.  From a young age, he didn’t allow his disability to slow him down.  Tom developed friendships with his neighbors and loved chatting with them daily.  He has particularly fond memories of his neighbor, Irene, whom he spoke with everyday while living in PT Barnum Village in Bridgeport.  He began a 60 year love affair with the sport of baseball, and the Yankees in particular, while growing up in Bridgeport.  He has vivid memories of having his sister pitch baseballs to him in his wheelchair indoors and breaking a window or two with his powerful swing.  One of his treasured memories is watching Mickey Mantle play.  He never stopped loving baseball and the Yankees.  His passion for the sport can be seen even today, as he anxiously awaits the 2018 playoff games that could lead the Yankees to another World Series.

As an adult, Tom became passionate about advocating for people with disabilities.  He worked in various roles as an advocate over the years championing the causes of those who couldn’t fight for themselves.  For example, he is passionate about the right of handicapped individuals to get married and still maintain the state benefits that many of them are so dependent upon.  Tom himself has had a girlfriend or two over the years and believes that people with disabilities have as much right to companionship as anyone else.  Tom’s lifelong advocacy work brought him into the spotlight many times.  He traveled to Tennessee to attend a conference on advocacy; appeared on 60 Minutes to advocate for the closing of a school that abused people and was interviewed by Channel 7 news for WeCare.  He remembers attending a 5 hour meeting with a committee of the federal government as well.  Tom’s work was not always easy and involved much travelling and meeting attendance.  If given the chance, he would continue to be an advocate today, even without pay.  He passionately declares, “people with disabilities have just as much rights as anybody else.”  Tom believes that everyone should count, where the government is concerned, and everyone has a right to be heard.  He is a man who follows current events, votes in all elections and speaks to young people about the importance of being involved.  He has spoken at North Salem high school and Fairfield University.

Even today, Tom’s magnetic personality and gentle kindness draw people to him.  He has made friends at his time in the group home, where he currently resides.  He looks forward to visits from his nurse, Michelle, who has become a close friend.  He chooses not to be idle and has taught himself how to sew.  He makes bags and pillows for friends and family who have touched his heart.  He displays beautiful photos of his lovely grandniece, Elizabeth, as well as many other family and friends who are close to him.  He is not bitter about his disability and views it as something that opened many doors for himself.  From his advocacy work, to attending Yankees games to meeting Reggie Jackson, Tom is a vibrant and active member of society.  He has fond memories of meeting Reggie Jackson and being told by him that he should run for President.

Tom is truly a kind and passionate man with a gentle soul.  His willingness to fight for the rights of the disabled and his desire to inspire young people to consider the needs of those who cannot speak for themselves are evidence of his kind and passionate nature.  His passion for the Yankees illustrates his fun disposition and has inspired others to give him opportunities to visit Yankee stadium several times.  When reflecting upon his life experiences, Tom indicates that he hopes that he made a difference.    His pet peeve is people who aren’t kind and Tom prides himself on always being kind and telling the truth.  Despite a disability that has been part of his life from a very young age, Tom has lived a life that mattered.

 

Written by Debbie Bodie, Regional Hospice and Palliative Care Volunteer