Prayers still sought as Tom Braak recovers from injuries

Becky Vargo • Apr 6, 2018 at 3:00 PM

A missionary with local ties, critically injured in an accident in Haiti a little more than a month ago, is now in a long-term acute care center in Florida.

Tom Braak, 55, who operates Faith in Action International, was struck by a truck following an argument with the driver on March 2, according to his sister, Susie Portillos.

Braak is the son of former Grand Haven resident Larry Braak, whose family operated Braak’s Bakery in Spring Lake for many years. Braak grew up in Marquette.

Now a longtime Haiti resident, Braak was hospitalized in Port Au Prince, Haiti, following the crash. Due to the severity of his injuries, he was airlifted to West Palm Beach, Florida, and treated at St. Mary’s Medical Center. Most recently, Braak was transferred to Kindred Hospital the Palm Beaches in Riviera Beach, Florida.

“We appreciate all the support we have received, all the donations, prayers and notes,” Portillos said. 

Braak’s sister emphasized that the need for all of those items continue.

“He’s doing better than expected, but he still has a long way to go,” she said.

Braak suffered a brain injury, one and a half collapsed lungs, a fractured pelvis, fractured hip and several broken ribs, Portillos said.

Breathing and feeding tubes have been removed and Braak is able to feed himself, she said. But because of the pelvis and hip fractures, he is not able to do any weight-bearing activity.

The man’s family anticipates being able to move Braak to a rehab facility in the next few weeks. Portillos said Braak would go to a facility in Atlanta, Georgia, that specializes in neurological therapy, or to Mary Free Bed in Grand Rapids.

“We still have to figure out how to transport him,” she said. 

In the meantime, Braak loves having visitors, getting cards and receiving encouragement on the “Letters to Tom” Facebook page. His birthday is April 14, and Portillos encourages people to send him cards to: Kindred Hospital the Palm Beaches, 5555 W. Heron Blvd., Riviera Beach, FL 33418.

Portillos said her brother can converse and maintains his sense of humor. While he is doing well with long-term memory, he is struggling with short-term memory. 

Braak’s wife returned to Haiti after a week at her husband’s side in Florida, mostly because of the language barrier, Portillos said. The family hopes to bring his wife, Ficilta, and his son, Ryan, 10, to the U.S. when Braak is moved to a rehab facility.

“I think that will help him a lot,” Portillos said.

Donated funds paid for the helicopter transfer to West Palm Beach and for other medical expenses so far. Portillos said more donations will be needed to help cover transportation costs to a rehab center, as well as future medical expenses not covered by Braak’s insurance. There is also the cost of bringing his wife and son to the U.S.

Donations can be made via GoFundMe here: www.gofundme.com/tombraak. Anyone who wants to make a PayPal contribution can do so by using Portillos’ email: [email protected]. Checks can be sent to Susan Portillos or to Faith in Action International at 10701 Cherry Court, Thornton, CO 80233. Portillo said to make sure anything sent notes that it is for Braak’s medical care.

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