Update: Joplin Tornado Hero, Stuck With $2.5 Million in Hospital Bills, Gets Reprieve

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T. Rob Brown / Joplin Globe / AP

Joplin resident Mark Lindquist walks with his sister Linda during his recovery at the Missouri Rehabilitation Center in Mount Vernon, Mo.

(UPDATED: Oct 24, 5:15 p.m.) The disaster seems just about settled for Mark Lindquist. He may be physically back on his feet, but a denied worker’s comp claim nearly brought him to his knees financially. To the tune of $2.5 million.

As the skies darkened, Lindquist rushed to the aid of three disabled adults he cares for. But when the EF5 tornado swooped overhead, the 200 mph winds ripped him from his workplace, threw him an entire city block, and left him in an unrecognizable, comatose state. Miraculously, he survived, leaving doctors speechless to explain how. Now the only obstacle left to overcome is the veritable mountain of hospital bills – and that’s proving the toughest challenge for the Joplin hero.

(PHOTOS: Signs from the Joplin Tornado)

Lindquist, 51, is now saddled with $2.5 million in medical bills. Every rib was shattered, his shoulder was chipped off, most of his teeth were knocked out, and he lay in a coma for two months. He has no insurance to pay for his operations, but had hoped that his employer’s worker’s compensation fund would take care of it. He submitted a claim, but was initially denied. Their rationale? Lindquist faced “no greater risk than the general public at the time [he was] involved in the Joplin tornado,” Accident Fund Insurance Company of America wrote to him in a letter.

UPDATE: After Lindquist’s story broke on Sunday, Accident Fund changed course. “Upon further review of the case, and receiving additional information on the facts involved in this situation, Accident Fund believes the appropriate decision is to honor Mr. Mark Lindquist’s claim for worker’s compensation benefits,” company president Mike Britt announced late Monday.

Even state lawmakers spoke on Lindquist’s behalf to get him compensation. “I think they need to take another look at the circumstances and revisit the claim,” Joplin representative Bill Lant said. “What he did went beyond heroics.” Indeed, Lindquist rushed into the storm rather than (logically) heading away from it. He rushed to put mattresses over the three men who couldn’t be moved in time. “I could have abandoned them to save myself, but I would never do that,” he said.

Sadly, the three men he went to save were among the 162 casualties of the tornado. Lindquist, too, was mangled quite badly, but he managed to beat the odds. But now, the unmanageable: $2.5 million in bills that will only continue to grow, as he requires 11 prescriptions daily and will need additional surgeries. The CEO of his company, Community Support Services, lobbied the worker’s comp provider to accept the claim.

We’re not surprised this Joplin hero lucked out with his claim – after all, he’s got quite a streak so far.

MORE: How the Deadliest Tornado Reached Joplin

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

READ: After the Tornado: Blood, Sweat and Money