VIDEO: Community Rallies Around Family of Brain-Injured Mom (PHOTOS)

To help the Gasak family, the Bloomfield and Montclair communities have organized a Beefsteak fundraiser that will take place June 16 in Montclair. The public is invited to attend.

It’s been a year since Bloomfield resident Andy Gasak spoke to Patch about the plight of his family. Since then, things have improved for him and his two young children. Unfortunately, things have not improved for his wife, Joanna, who remains hospitalized.

On Dec. 11, 2009 Gasak’s young wife Joanna Suchocka was hit by a car on her way to work. She sustained massive traumatic brain injury and remains, to this day, largely unresponsive to stimulus. 

Now, three years after the accident, Gasak continues to express a guarded hope that Suchocka would eventually recover enough to come home and resume her life. In the meantime, he has adjusted to his role as sole caregiver to his two young children, Matthew and Klara. The Gasak family met up with Patch at Brookdale Park this weekend to discuss what their lives have been like since their.

Matthew, now nine years old, is an honor roll student who earned his black belt in Tae Kwon Do this year.  He is also a talented pianist and recently won a contest to perform at Steinway Hall in New York City (a video of his recent performance is attached to this article.) Clara, at only four years old, is already an orange belt in Tae Kwon Do and is learning to read, aided by her big brother.

“I don’t like to put them in front of the TV,” says Gasak. “They have beautiful minds.”

Gasak, meanwhile, continues to deal with the details of his wife's care. She is currently being treated in her native country, Poland, where Gasak was forced to move her after the family’s insurance ran out. Though Suchocka’s hospitalization and rehabilitation is much less expensive than in the U.S., after three years it has amounted to a staggering sum. 

In a website detailing Suchocka’s tragic story, Gasak wrote, "Most of you are probably familiar with the Gabrielle Gifford case. There is a very good article on msnbc.com, entitled, "Giffords' rehab fully covered, but not so for other victims of brain injury." This article sheds some light on the cost of rehabilitation for traumatic brain injury patients. In 2003 it was estimated that the average cost was at least $1,600 a day."

For this reason, Bloomfield and Montclair joined forces last year to help the young family, sponsored by their church, St. Cassian’s, in Upper Montclair. Its success inspired this year's 2nd Annual Beefsteak Dinner, benefitting the Joanna Suchocka Charity.  

Tickets are on sale now for the event, which takes place June 16 from 6:30 -10:30 p.m. The $50 ticket price includes all-you-can-eat filet mignon, dessert, entertainment, raffles and a 50/50.

Gasak said he was deeply grateful to the church, his children’s schools and members of both communities for their kindness and continued support. “If not for their help, I couldn’t manage,” he admits. 

Last summer, Gasak and the children spent four months in Poland visiting with Suchocka and attending to her care. “Matthew had his First Communion over there because I wanted my wife to participate in it,” he says.

Though Suchocka is still dependent on a feeding tube and virtually unable to walk and talk, he says she is slowly improving with daily rehabilitation. He remains hopeful she will come home soon. 

“We hope she will come home in September,” says Gasak.  “We have to get her weight up before she can travel.” Suchocka currently weighs about 70 pounds.

As for her prognosis, there really is none, he says. “No one knows. You need a miracle for her to recover. I have faith in God. I tell the kids she is going to get better.”


BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW for the 2nd Annual Beefsteak Dinner Benefitting the Joanna Suchocka Charity.

When: Saturday, June 16 from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Where: St. Cassian School, 190 Lorraine Ave., Upper Montclair, N.J.

Tickets:  $50 per person includes all-you-can-eat filet mignon, dessert, and entertainment! The event is BYOB.

Silent auction, raffles and 50/50.

For more information go to:



Rev. Susan Gillespie June 15, 2012 at 12:04 PM
Thank you to Patch for continuing to share this family's story. I am heartsick that our healthcare system has separated this family.
Linda Federico-O'Murchu June 15, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Thank you, Reverend. It's a great Father's Day event -- all-you-can-eat filet mignon, plus a chance to help this dad and his kids.
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