HOPE FUND; Disabled after 2 Accidents but That's Not All Douglas Phillips Has Faced; Challenges Accumulate

Article excerpt

Byline: Jordan Harirchi

Amid the aged furniture, outdated electronics and old VHS tapes in Douglas Phillips' small apartment sits an old beer koozie that sums up Phillips' situation. Printed in lime green letters on the black-colored foam are the words: "This is not the life I ordered."

In 1996, Phillips was an up-and-coming stockbroker in Sunnyvale, Calif., two years into a career he had picked up after several years of trying to decide on a path for his life.

Then, a hit-and-run car crash changed everything, leaving him in constant pain and unable to work, a situation exacerbated by another accident in 2001.

Now 53, Phillips has no income. He has been living off his savings for the past six years and had to cash out his IRA to help pay his $500 monthly living expenses. He's tried to slim down expenses by getting rid of his car, but has been unable to afford a special bike with high handlebars that won't aggravate his injuries.

Phillips' life would never be the same after a motorist smashed into the back of his parked car in 1996. A year later, a specialist diagnosed Phillips with Facet syndrome, a disease that causes chronic pain, muscle spasms and inflammation along the vertebrae.

Phillips' pain flared up whenever he spent long periods of time standing or sitting at his computer, reducing his productivity as a stockbroker with Charles Schwab & Co. Inc.

When Schwab cut his wages and prospects of advancement, Phillips moved to Salt Lake City to work for Fidelity Investments. The cost of living was lower there, he figured, and he hoped to get advanced training in information technology there.

Phillips worked at his new job for about a year and a half before quitting because of his back pain.

"It was clear to me that I was aggravating the injury by working long periods of time at the computer," Phillips said. "I realized I'd have to figure something else out."

Phillips moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., to live with family and work as a substitute teacher to give his back a break from computer usage. When the pain diminished a bit, he found a job in computer technical support.

The pain was still there, but he could manage and work effectively.

Then, another accident in 2001 intensified his pain and aggravated his injury further. Phillips was driving across an intersection when a woman in another car ran a red light and he hit her. …