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Mom seeks guardianship of injured Marine

He may remain incapacitated by a crash involving Hulk Hogan's son.

By Tamara El-Khoury
Published October 9, 2007

John Graziano's mother is petitioning a Pinellas County judge to allow her to assume guardianship of her 22-year-old son, who is in critical condition at Bayfront Medical Center.
[Family photo]
[Jim Damaske | Times]
John Graziano was the passenger in this yellow Toyota Supra driven by his friend Nick Bollea, 17. According to court documents, Graziano was not wearing a seat belt.

CLEARWATER - The young Marine severely injured in a car accident involving wrestler Hulk Hogan's son will need lifelong care and at best will only be able to open and close his eyes periodically, according to court documents.

John Graziano's mother is petitioning a Pinellas County judge to allow her to assume guardianship of her 22-year-old son, who is in critical condition at Bayfront Medical Center. A hearing is set for Wednesday.

The Dunedin High School graduate was the passenger in a yellow Toyota Supra driven by his friend Nick Bollea, 17, the son of the famous wrestler. Bollea crashed the Supra on Court Street in Clearwater on Aug. 26. According to court documents, Graziano was not wearing a seat belt. No charges have been filed; the accident is still under investigation by Clearwater police.

His mother, Debra Graziano, was granted emergency temporary guardianship on Sept. 27, allowing her to apply for military benefits on her son's behalf.

Graziano's father, who is estranged from his wife, is contesting her application. Edward Graziano is seeking an independent guardian for his son, according to his attorney, Steven Hearn.

A Sept. 19 report filed by registered nurse Joanne Jones, who was hired by the court to examine John Graziano to determine if he is incapacitated, said he was on total life support. The report said that Graziano was comatose and that he may have had a seizure.

Jones' report said Graziano responds to a pinch and has a gag reflex but does not otherwise respond to touch or sound. His pupils are fixed, meaning they don't respond to light.

Coleen Booker, a registered nurse with 14 years of emergency room experience at Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville, said in an interview that it is not encouraging that he is on life support and his pupils are fixed.

"But the signs that he has a gag reflex and does respond to pain means he's not brain dead," said Booker, who is not involved with Graziano's treatment.

In her report, Jones detailed the injuries Graziano sustained during the wreck. He broke his skull at the base, had part of his skull cut out, experienced brain swelling and had cuts to the scalp. Bone was pushed in and broken in many pieces. He had abnormal collections of blood under the front side of the skull.

In an addendum, Jones included information given to her by Graziano's doctor, H. Bushnell Clarke. He told her that at best, Graziano will "open his eyes on and off."

"At this present time, he states his prognosis remains guarded," Jones wrote in her Sept. 26 addendum. "He states that this young man most likely will spend the remainder of his life in a nursing home."

She said Graziano should be re evaluated in six months to see if his condition improves.

Dr. Malcolm Fraser, who was also appointed by the court to examine Graziano, said the young man was rated a three on the Glasgow Coma Scale.

The scale is used to assess the recovery of traumatic brain injury patients and measures eye, verbal and motor responses. A score of one on each test, for a total of three, is the lowest possible level of responsiveness. A score of five on each test, for a total of 15, is the highest.

On Monday, George Tragos, the lawyer representing Debra Graziano, would say only that John Graziano's condition has improved and he now responds to stimuli.

"Well, that's one doctor's opinion but it's not the full medical picture," he said of Jones' report.

An incapacitated person doesn't necessarily need a guardian, said George Felos, the Dunedin lawyer who represented Michael Schiavo, the husband of Terri Schiavo.

"The law prefers that people plan for their own affairs so the court doesn't have to be involved to take care of the affairs of an incapacitated person," Felos said.

However if the patient has left no directions, then a guardian is usually necessary, Felos said.

Tamara El-Khoury can be reached at or 727 445-4181.



A poor prognosis

Examinations conducted by court-appointed medical professionals last month reported that John Graziano was on full life support at Bayfront Medical Center. He suffered trauma from a severe head injury and was listed as Glasgow Coma Scale 3, the lowest rating on a scale that ranges from 3 to 15. He responded to a pinch and has gag reflexes but did not respond to any other touches or sounds.


[Last modified October 9, 2007, 23:23:24]

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