It is with great sadness that we have to relate the death of @TJ127, one of our longest and perhaps most influential members.
TJ was first diagnosed with an AVM in his neck in 1978. “At that point, no one in Michigan even knew what they were!” Since then, he went through major embolisations/surgeries in 1978, 1986, 2009 and 2018. He had a further two embolisations last year. The treatments up to 2009 were successful and after a normal recovery period, TJ went back to relatively normal life. The operation at the end of January 2018 was more impactful and TJ had to give up work.
In real life, TJ was Tom Vanderwell, a successful banker and family man, living in Jenison Township near Grand Rapids, Michigan.
In 2004, the Vanderwells adopted two kids from Haiti. After the 2010 earthquake, Tom spent days co-ordinating care and evacuation for 80 Haitian children from one orphanage that were in the process of being adopted to the USA (rather like the Vietnam baby evacuation). His wife headed to Haiti as a nurse at that time and helped bring some sick adoptive children home safely as well. The family still have strong ties to Haiti. He literally didn’t sleep until those kids made it home.
Tom was a bachelor of English from what is now Calvin University. His skills in English helping his customers when he was a mortgage lender and work he undertook with non-profit organisations. Tom was a committed Christian and ardent advocate of social justice, in particular fighting racism, setting out his thoughts on many subjects that troubled him on his blog, https://www.tomvanderwell.net/ and we have seen a lot of his thoughts here on avmsurvivors, as well.
Though we all worry about our AVM cutting our life short, Tom died from a rapid degenerative disease unrelated to his AVM, though diagnosis may have been hampered by thinking the underlying problems he had over the last year were all to do with his AVM or surgeries.
He leaves his wife, five adult children, his first grandson and his mom.
His wife Cheryl announced his passing on Friday:
Our faithful and loving husband, father, grandfather, son, brother and uncle left his earthly life early this morning and is now healed and whole in Heaven. He was welcomed there by his dad, grandparents and infant sister.
Friends, your prayers and support have been deeply felt and loved. Thank you for upholding us as we have walked this long road. The doctors now believe that Tom had a progressive and degenerative brain disorder. The hospital staff at Butterworth on 4West 4Heart were incredibly skilled and caring and I am so grateful to them.
Prayers for comfort and peace are appreciated as we live the next days, weeks and months without Tom. I thank God for the guarantee of eternal life for those who believe in Him. There is no doubt in our minds that Tom is in heaven with his Father God.
The funeral arrangements start on Thursday this week.
Thomas John Vanderwell (pictured with Cheryl)
January 27, 1965 - August 12, 2022