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With a Fateful Dive into Lake Hopatcong, a Roxbury Man's Challenging Life is Worsened

Bill and Heather Paxton on their wedding day Credits: Amanda sexton
Credits: Heather Sexton

ROXBURY, NJ – Bill Sexton and his family were swimming for hours near a Lake Hoptacong dock. It was a pleasant outing, but one that would become nightmarish in the time it took for one dive.

Jumping from the dock into what seemed to be deep water, Sexton smashed his head on a submerged rock. “We didn’t realize how shallow it was,” said his daughter Amanda. “We’d been swimming there and we couldn’t even feel the bottom. There just happened to be that rock right where he dove.”

The impact was not minor. “His head was cracked open,” said his daughter. “You could see inside his skull.”

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To this day, three years later, Sexton remains amazed her father was able to climb out of the lake and onto the dock. That was the only good news from that day three years ago, as Bill Sexton - who’d been dealing with serious medical issues even before busting his skull – has since descended into a health, and healthcare, hell.

Nearing destitution, losing his short-term memory, surviving on his wife’s income because he cannot work, enduring denials by the Social Security disability system, Sexton, 48, needs help. Desparate, the family recently launched an online fundraising site..

“We’re trying to raise $12,000,” said Amanda Sexton. “It just seemed like a reachable number. We didn’t want to set a goal that was too high.”

The money will mainly cover medical expenses not being paid by Sexton’s health insurance, bills that far outpace the paychecks of Sexton’s spouse, Heather Sexton, a nurse at St. Barnabas Medical Center. She said the family has been financially decimated by medical costs, including some the Sextons were told would be covered by insurance but were not.

“Last year he had to see a specialist,” said Heather Sexton. “The doctor in New Jersey didn’t take our insurance and they sent us to one in Philadelphia. They said it was going to be covered but, of course, it wasn’t. Now we’re getting thousands and thousands of dollars in bills from them.”

Amanda Sexton said her father was a “bad luck” case when it came to his body even before that fateful dive from the dock. He suffers from fibromyalgia, he’s endured three or four heart operations, his spine was fused to help stop severe back pain, he has carpal tunnel syndrome and he once needed a craniotomy, she said.

One thing Sexton’s never had is an MRI, a procedure that would allow doctors to see what he did to his brain on that Lake Hopatcong rock. That’s because Sexton is fitted with a neurotransmitter for his back pain, a device that contains metal and can't go into an MRI machine. Before Sexton can get an MRI, the device needs to be removed. Again, the Sexton’s bump up against the money problem.

After Sexton hit his head, he was rushed to a hospital. He was there for about 90 minutes and released, said his daughter. “They didn’t diagnose anything,” she said. “The just said it was a traumatic brain injury and head trauma. They basically just closed everything up and sent us home.”

Since then, Sexton’s mental condition has continually worsened. “He’s very forgetful,” said his daughter. “He asks four times a day what day it is.”

His wife concurred: “He is so miserable now, so confused,” she said. “He’s gone outside in shorts at night in the snow. I’ve gone out looking for him.”

And he can barely move. The family's lack of money precludes the physical therapy sessions that had been helping Sexton deal with the fibromyalgia and back problems. “If I ever go over to the house and he’s out of bed it’s amazing,” said Amanda Sexton. “I never see him out of bed more than one day in row lately and not more than three days in a row in years.”

It might seem apparent Sexton, who worked for nearly three decades for Sodexo, is a man who can no longer hold down a job. His daughter and wife said several doctors have determined he is permanently disabled and won’t ever be able to work again.

Nevertheless, Sexton has been unable to secure Social Security disability payments. “We applied a few times but they still won’t give it to him,” said his wife. “I wrote letters to our Congressman. We've got attorneys helping us wade through paperwork. They told us now it could be another 11 or 12 months before they can clear the backlog.”

Sexton’s daughter wants her dad back; The guy who lived and breathed for football on TV and fantasy football competitions.

“He loves football and college football,” she said. “That’s his thing and it’s what he centered our family around … I always told him he should start a blog or something. He was always predicting who the next great player would be, and he was always right."

Now, Sexton's "just in so much pain he can’t really even watch the games," said his daughter. "And with his memory and brain function so bad, he’s not able to keep up with the players like he used to. This is like the first year he’s not doing his own fantasy team.”

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