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June 13, 2019 | Tom Ballard

PART 2: TENNACITY epitomizes Thomas Stephenson and his passion

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final article in a two-part series focused on a millennial entrepreneur who is committed to helping individuals trying to recover from traumatic events who don’t have the financial resources they need.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

“Long gone are the days of medical necessity,” Thomas Stephenson of Franklin says in describing a key challenge in today’s healthcare environment.

In the then 21-year old’s case, he needed more than the 25 physical therapy treatments his insurance coverage would provide as he recovered from a traumatic traffic accident that many do not survive. Fortunately, his parents had the financial resources to absorb the uncovered costs.

As the former triathlete began to regain his strength, he also regained his resolve to defy the prognosis that he would not be able to run, bike or engage in other sports like he had all of his life. Stephenson spent hours at Chadwick’s Fitness and Performance Training in Franklin, slowly but surely regaining his strength, flexibility and endurance.

Determined to make even more progress, he had all of the hardware removed from his feet, obviously against the advice of his surgeon. And, of course, he continued to work out at the facility . . . walking and jogging.

In 2018, a mere four years after the accident and months of therapy and workouts, Stephenson biked 3,000 miles, ran 500 miles, and participated in two Ironman Triathlons. How has he done it? “My pain tolerance is much higher these days,” Stephenson acknowledges. “You learn to live a new normal.”

That modified view of life is also the inspiration behind TENNACITY, the non-profit that he and his wife, Abby, have founded.

“The tragic part of my story is that I recovered in part because we had the money to pay for care,” Stephenson said. What happens to those that don’t have those financial resources? Most likely their recovery is significantly limited.

Thomas and Abby Stephenson are determined to change that picture.

TENNACITY was chartered in July 2018, officially launched in October, and started accepting its first clients in January 2019.

How does it work? As you might imagine, the process starts with an application.

  • Trauma survivors who need further help in recovery fill out a TENNACITY application with appropriate information, including a doctor’s medical release and financial sponsorship application.
  • Once an application has been submitted, an advisory board and the TENNACITY executive team work together to determine an individualized treatment plan and sponsorship level, if approved.
  • Finally, if they are accepted into the program, TENNACITY-sponsored trauma survivors work through the plan with partners to recover and set themselves up for a long-term active lifestyle.

“Different patients have different needs, and we provide a personalized plan for each individual depending on their circumstance,” Stephenson explains. “For a maximum, as of now, we provide 15 physical therapy visits, nearly doubling what many insurance plans provide, and help cover up to 3 months of strength training for participants. Our objective is to provide our patients with the proper platform they need following trauma to successfully return to an active life that they love.”

The non-profit is clearly in its early stages of raising money, so the geographic focus is limited to four Middle Tennessee counties – Bedford, Davidson, Maury and Williamson. “We want to eventually cover the entire state,” Stephenson says.

As he and his wife build the organization, they are working with a variety of referral sources – acute care, long-term care, and rehabilitation facilities, physical therapists, and health and fitness specialists.

“We’re also building-out our corporate partnership program and welcome inquiries,” Stephenson says.

Knowing the tenacity that it takes to recover from traumatic injuries like he experienced, Stephenson is determined to give those who can use financial help but also have the necessary determination an opportunity to achieve what he did.

You can read more about his experience at this link that also includes a picture of the December 2014 wreck and fire.


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