By CAROLYN SZCZEPANSKI
After just five days in Iraq, a bullet from rebel militia fighters confined Tomas Young to awheelchair in 2004. Since his return, the Northland native has become a nationally known anti-war activist, exposing the ugly reality of partial paralysis and the human toll of the Iraq conflict in "Body of War," a Phil-Donahue-directed documentary about Young's life.
Released this spring, the movie has won critical acclaim and created plenty of award buzz. But Young's personal battle continues. Late last week, his family rushed him to the intensive care unit at St. Luke's Hospital.
Cathy Smith, Young's mother, says a blood clot in Young's right arm migrated to his lung on Friday. Over the weekend, he fell into a coma and, when he first woke up, the signs were worrying. "He went through a place where he wasn't able to communicate," Smith says.
Once he regained the ability to speak, Young was moved out of the critical care wing. But on Sunday his condition deteriorated and he returned to the I.C.U. A few miles away, at the J.C. Nichols Fountain near Country Club Plaza, more than two dozen anti-war activists rallied for Young. Among the participants were Smith and Ellen Spiro, the producer of "Body of War," who has kept close ties with the family and flew to Kansas City when she heard the news.
This morning, a hospital spokeswoman listed Young's condition as "fair." Smith says she's optimistic he'll be out of the I.C.U. soon, but it will be a while before he's back home and even longer before he makes a full recovery.
"There's no long-term memory loss, but his short-term memory was affected and some of his fine motor skills are a problem," she says. "And his speech isn't where it was before [the coma]."
His room is quickly filling with cards and flowers, though. Smith says she's been overwhelmed with the support from around the country, including musician Eddie Vedder, who contributed an original song to Young's "Body of War" soundtrack.
Young with Eddie Vedder.
To reach Young, send letters to: St. Luke's Hospital, 4401 Wornall, Kansas City, MO 64111