In 2017 and 2020, Kelly Denham spoke against legislation attempting to place caps on medical malpractice lawsuit awards.
Kelly Denham’s son, TJ, was 16 years old and a junior in high school when doctors discovered a coarctation of his aorta requiring surgery. TJ woke up from that surgery with a traumatic brain injury which was very severe. After a long hospitalization and almost a year in a rehab center, he finally came home where his parents cared for him. Cognitively nothing had changed but physically he was unable to talk, move his eyes, swallow, walk, sit up, and had very limited use of his arms. His left vocal cord and his right diaphragm were paralyzed. He had a tracheotomy and a G-tube. This meant he could not eat food or drink and was unable to clear his throat or lungs on his own. He depended on others to do these basic, lifesaving steps for him.
Before his surgery, TJ was a good student, very friendly and outgoing. He played the drums, loved paintball, and enjoyed hanging out with his friends. He wanted to be an engineer or join the military. He was active in his youth group and his church. He was the youngest of five children and an only son.
Because a doctor made a mistake, TJ’s hopes and dreams of his future were gone and so were the hopes and dreams of those who loved him. If lawmakers chose to vote yes to capping medical malpractice lawsuit awards, victims with very expensive, catastrophic injuries like TJ’s would not be able to afford the care they needed.
Kelly Denham’s book, Trapped Within, takes readers on their family’s journey of the pain, grief, and healing they experienced during TJ’s illness. She believes that doctors are human and make mistakes but still need to be held accountable. Kelly does not want what her son and family went through to happen to another Iowa family. She feels that no amount of money compensates for their loss, but that in the very least, victims should have the opportunity to receive compensation for the damages incurred.
Even though their own case was already settled, Kelly and her husband, Travis, gathered with other family members of medical malpractice victims at the State Capitol to speak against laws that would place caps on medical malpractice lawsuit awards. Thanks to Kelly’s hard work, along with several other advocate families, the bill was defeated. To learn more about Kelly and her family’s trials and healing victories, read her book, Trapped Within, available soon.