After experiencing the turmoil of a family medical crisis without a plan in place, Louisville attorney Michelle Tupper Butler established Tupper Butler Law, PLLC, specifically to assist other families facing similar situations or wanting to prepare an estate plan designed for their family’s unique needs.
When Michelle’s active and healthy father was left a quadriplegic after a fall in his home, she assumed responsibility for his care while also balancing the demands of her legal career and family needs with two young children. Faced with the difficulty of navigating the complicated legal, financial, medical, and logistical issues facing families in the midst of a medical crisis, Michelle discovered there was a need for a comprehensive law firm to help families with legal and financial guidance, patient advocacy, and estate planning.
MICHELLE TUPPER BUTLER
At home, Michelle revels in her family – with her husband, Brandon, two small children, and dog, Buster. She managed her father’s care with her brother and enjoyed his ongoing ability to engage in life despite his disability. With the spare time that she nourishes with insistence, Michelle enjoys her book club (believing fervently that Frankenstein is the most important book ever written), lifting heavy things as exercise, and her newly adopted hobby and passion of fishkeeping.
DR. E. FRANK TUPPER
Dr. E. Frank Tupper was a renowned theologian, author, and teacher. He began his distinguished teaching career at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, teaching there for 23 years. In 1999, he became a founding faculty member at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity.
Dr. Tupper was ordained at Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville in 1967 and served at various churches as pastor throughout his life. Throughout his academic career, Dr. Tupper focused on challenging the traditional understanding of providence in line with his personal understanding of God and his faith. “Life is arbitrary,” he posits, “God is not.”
Dr. Tupper was Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Divinity at Wake Forest University, the author of The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg and A Scandalous Providence: The Jesus Story of the Compassion of God, an old-school country music lover, and a loving grandfather. Dr. Tupper passed away in February 2020 while in the loving embrace of his family.
Dr. E. Frank Tupper, my father, suffered a fall one February night that caused a catastrophic spinal injury with paralysis. We did not find him until the following afternoon, face down, unable to move but conscious. Up until that horrible day, my father had led an active life – he was a respected, well-known theologian and professor, as well as a dedicated family man who raised my brother and me by himself after our mother passed away in 1983. Suddenly, without any preparation, it was our turn to take care of him.
An ambulance took my dad to the trauma center at the University of Louisville Hospital, where emergency tests showed dangerous swelling of the cervical spinal cord – a result of tripping and landing face first, which snapped his head back, hyperextending the neck and shattering the material that held his spine together and protected the spinal cord. The pressure on the cord from the many hours of swelling caused the paralysis.
Though we had some good news that the injury did not completely sever the spinal cord, he needed risky emergency surgery to remove the material causing the swelling and pressure. The danger primarily involved the location of injury — that particular area of the spinal cord controls breathing and swallowing, so we were warned that he may not come off the ventilator after surgery.
The shock my brother and I experienced that night and in the days that followed was raw and terrifying. The initial surgery went well, and after some time, he was taken off the ventilator and could finally communicate with us again. But that was short-lived, as setback after setback required first the ventilator again and eventually a tracheotomy, which placed a tube through his neck into his lungs so he could breathe – an uncomfortable tube that remained in place for several weeks. After his stay in the ICU, my dad moved through the hospital to inpatient rehabilitation with spinal cord specialists for several months to continue recovering – and to allow us to put together a plan for his care and attempt to regain his life as a quadriplegic unable to do anything for himself despite a mind as sharp as ever.
Despite a law degree and intimate familiarity with the health care system, I had no idea what to do after my father’s injury. I had to assume responsibility for his care and advocate for him as a patient, manage his finances, and figure out where he could live when he was discharged – all while balancing my career, family with two small children, my own grief at this changed life, and my dad’s need for his daughter’s support. He did not have any instructions or plan in place, and nothing prepared my family or any family for this kind of injury. I had to learn quickly how to keep him alive and maximize his quality of life. Along the way, I met countless families facing similar traumatic illnesses or injuries to a loved one without available information on how to proceed, all while trying to deal with the emotional roller coaster of the situation. I found I wanted to engage with these families professionally as well as personally, offering my years of experience as a lawyer and advocate and now with personal experience as a caregiver. So began my determination to open the doors of my own specialty law firm.
With Tupper Butler Law, I hope to turn what has been a difficult experience into an opportunity to provide counsel, advocacy, and guidance to other families and offer living proof that there is potential for great joy in everyday life despite the pain of the unexpected. My father, Dr. Tupper, continued to be an example of this for our family and an inspiration for me to help others.
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