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Collision Course: Epilogue Part 1

Konstantinov Fundraiser Banners
Rachel Ishikawa
Michigan Radio

Collision Course is a special Stateside podcast series about the breaking of Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance law and how it’s upending the lives of thousands of people, including one Detroit hockey legend.

This is part one of the epilogue for Collision Course, our podcast series on Vladimir Konstantinov and Michigan’s auto no-fault laws. You can listen to previous episodes here.

The Michigan Supreme Court announced today it will hear a challenge to the state’s auto insurance law signed in 2019. And, the court says, for now victims of car accidents must continue to receive payouts needed to cover their previous level of care.

That’s a big deal for thousands of people catastrophically injured in car accidents, and for their loved ones and caregivers.

For decades, auto no-fault laws in Michigan ensured that car crash survivors got the care they needed for life. About 18,000 people relied on this unique coverage for critical care.

But, as we talked about throughout the Collision Course series, this system of care fell apart when the Michigan Legislature dramatically changed the law three years ago. As a result, thousands have lost or are at risk of losing many of the services that have made living possible.

One of those people is legendary Red Wings defenseman and Stanley Cup winner, Vladimir Konstantinov.

Crowdfunded care

Thousands of people have already lost their care because of the auto no-fault law reform. Some of them have died.

Vladdie has managed to hold onto his care, which costs around $26,000 a month. How he’s been able to stay afloat is in part because of who he is. In a time when crowdfunding medical costs is commonplace, fans are rallying to support Vladdie.

A few months ago, more than 100 people paid for an opportunity to meet Vladdie and buy signed merchandise at Pro Sports Zone in Livonia, Michigan.

Fans line up Konstantinov fundraiser
Rachel Ishikawa
Michigan Radio
Fans lined up outside of Pro Sports Zone in Livonia, Michigan hours before the fundraising event for Vladimir Konstantinov.

Fans lined up hours before the event.

“I kind of knew people want to come in early,” Yu said. “A lot of people been waiting for this moment for a long, long time.”

“I feel bad that, you know, he even has to really do these things just to pay for the bills. It's really unfortunate,"
Mike Mowinski

Trevor Upchurch was one of the fans there to support. He said some of his earliest memories are of watching the Red Wings win the 1997 Stanley Cup on a VHS recording.

“Those teams were so influential and helpful during my childhood…and Vladdie was so much of a symbol of those early ‘90s teams and the grit and toughness,” Upchurch said. “I thought, why not honor him with this and finally get to me one of my favorites.”

Mike Mowinski, another fan, flew out from California to be at this fundraiser. It was a big deal for him to meet Vladdie.

“I just couldn't miss this,” Mowinski said. “I gave them some Uno cards because he really loves Uno…I'm just glad that they did this for him to help raise money for all his medical costs.”

But even with the excitement of seeing one of the hockey greats, there was recognition about the dire circumstances of the whole fundraiser.

“I feel bad that, you know, he even has to really do these things just to pay for the bills. It's really unfortunate,” Mowinski reflected.

Care, but at what cost?

It’s no small feat to bring Vladdie to a fundraiser event like the one held at Pro Sports Zone. He has a traumatic brain injury and he is accustomed to a regimented schedule.

“So even just getting here is quite an ordeal,” said Theresa Ruedisueli who’s the regional director of operations at Vladdie’s home care company. “As you can imagine, all of his morning routines have to be expedited and escalated. We have to be very mindful of his schedule.”

Konstantinov and Dave Lewis
Rachel Ishikawa
Michigan Radio
Former Red Wings coach Dave Lewis came to the fundraiser to support. He was assistant coach when Vladimir Konstantinov played on the team.

For Vladdie, new environments can mean new triggers.

He is triggered by things that you and I may not even notice. So as his care team, we have to be aware of all of those things. We need to be mindful. We need to be vigilant,” Ruedisueli said. “Plus, I mean, I am sure that you after an hour and half smiling and having your hand shaken or shook, you would be tired too.”

Vladdie raised around $10,400 for his care that day – an amount that only covers a portion of a month’s bill.

While Vladdie's care is partially covered by fundraisers, the bulk of the cost lands on his home care agency. They’re footing around $18,000 every month.

Vladdie has made substantial, though incremental, improvements in his function since his car accident in 1997. But he will require around the clock care for the rest of his life.

Whether the systems in place that previously covered his care will be legally compelled by the Supreme Court to continue fully supporting Vladdie, and thousands of other victims, will be decided in the next calendar year.

Vladdie’s family, friends, and care team are acutely aware of the long-term financial need amid the many legal unknowns. As things dwindled down at Pro Sports Zone, John Yu and Theresa Ruedisili were already talking about organizing Vladdie’s next fundraiser.

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Rachel Ishikawa joined Michigan Radio in 2020 as a podcast producer. She produced Kids These Days, a limited-run series that launched in the Summer of 2020.
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