Jacob – Part Three

9 08 2003

“There’s been an accident. You need to come with us.”

One of those phrases a parent hopes to never hear. Thursday, May 23, 1996. The last day of school, and the end of ninth grade for Jacob. A friend had invited him to attend the eighth-grade class’s canoeing party on Caddo Lake. The ninth-grade students were given the day off before the closing ceremonies Friday. Jacob went to the party.

I drove Grace’s seventh-grade class to their party at Putt-Putt Golf in Longview. When we arrived back at the school, I was greeted at my car door with the unwelcome news and pulled toward another teacher’s mini-van. On the way to the hospital, the teacher filled me in. She told me as much as she knew, which wasn’t much. Through sobs she choked out her message. There had been some kind of accident. One student had drowned. Jacob was in the hospital, but she didn’t know his condition. George was waiting for me there.

My thoughts raced, and I tried to pray. For mercy, for help, for the family of the boy who drowned. For Jacob. I prayed in circles till I didn’t know what to pray. Then we rode in silence.

Jacob spent two weeks in ICU. He didn’t regain consciousness, though he did begin to breathe on his own. No one knew how long he had been under water. Probably at least ten minutes. It had been several minutes before anyone noticed the boys were missing. Then several more minutes of searching around the shore and nearby restaurant. Then blind diving in a muddy lake. Jacob was found on the bottom in fourteen feet of water. It took twenty minutes of CPR before he responded. Thirty minutes passed before they found the other boy.

From ICU Jacob was transferred to Baylor Institute of Rehabilitation into a coma treatment program. The doctors there are specialists in brain injury. After reviewing his charts and talking with us, their prognosis was grim.

If he lived, he would remain in a persistent vegetative state.

I couldn’t believe this was happening. It all seemed like a terrible dream, but I couldn’t wake up. I could hardly stand to look into George’s eyes. The anguish I saw there was unbearable.

Jacob’s main doctor and her medical team plunged into his treatment with all the resources available. They honestly held no hope for his recovery. They believed he was going to die. But they still did everything in their power to help him.

Our hearts were broken. I had never felt grief like this . . . an ache so deep that it hurt to breathe. My heart was a lump of raw pain. But over the horrible roar of the pain, a voice whispered hope. God could heal Jacob. If He so chose, He could heal him. I thought of Lazarus, who had been rotting in the tomb for four days when Jesus called him out. Lazarus came out whole. All it would take was one word. One word and Jacob would be well.

So we prayed. And we stayed beside him. We sang to him and read to him. We held his hand and talked to him.

And lots of other people prayed. Local churches prayed, and people we knew called people they knew, and more churches prayed. After the six-week program ended at Baylor, Jacob was still in a coma. But he had showed some evidence of awareness. Very small. A slight movement of the hand. An attempt to make a sound.

Jacob moved into a nursing home half a block from our house. He had a trache and a stomach feeding tube and required twenty-four hour nursing. So this seemed like the best option. The community rallied around him to such a great extent that we were amazed. Businesses donated equipment for therapy and furniture to make his room homey. People came and sat with him, keeping him company in shifts, helping us provide stimulation to encourage recovery. Teenagers stapled yellow ribbons all over town with the words “Pray for Jacob” printed on them. The support was overwhelming. And the prayers continued.

Slowly. Very slowly, Jacob began to wake up. He couldn’t swallow. He couldn’t speak. But he could look with his eyes. And we made a remarkable discovery.

A teacher wrote the names of objects found in the room on index cards. She held up a card for Jacob and said, “Look at this.” The card said Window. Jacob shifted his eyes and looked at the window. She held up a card that said Door. Jacob looked at the door. He could read.

The in-house therapists at the nursing home devoted hours daily to Jacob. They were determined he would walk. And he did. At first it took three people: one on each side, and one to lift and lower his legs, one at a time. Eventually, he begin moving his own legs. His movements were awkward and jerky. But he was walking. As he improved, one person could assist him alone. After eight months in the nursing home, we moved Jacob back to our house.

A year had passed, and Jacob still hadn’t eaten or spoken. He still couldn’t swallow. A new speech therapist began working with him, pressing on his teeth, using a toothette to massage the inside of his mouth. One afternoon Jacob spoke his first word. “Mom.”

He surprised all of us and himself when he said it, and when he tried to repeat it, he couldn’t. But speech was in there somewhere, and eventually it returned. First sounds. Then words. Then sentences.

Jacob emerged from coma with a beautiful faith. Before he could speak, he indicated “God” by pointing first to his heart and then to the sky. An intense expression in his eyes told us that God was someone Jacob knew well. I wondered what mercies had been poured into his soul during all those months of silence.

Doctors were dumbfounded. They said they didn’t know why Jacob woke up. The doctor at Baylor told us her faith had been renewed through him, and now when she speaks or counsels families, she tells them that doctors do not have the final word regarding recovery or demise. “It’s not in our hands,” she claims. Jacob’s healing was a gift. A miracle.

Today Jacob is twenty-two. He is still dependent and lives at home. But he’s a precious young man with a delightful sense of humor and an intelligent mind. His speech is a little slurred, so people sometimes don’t realize how insightful he can be. But if you listen, you marvel.

He’ll probably never be a rocket scientist or a successful business man. But Jacob touches people in a deep place. To watch him worship is to glimpse heaven. We have so much to be thankful for. So very much. Would I have chosen this? Never. But God’s wisdom is foolishness to man. And suffering serves a purpose nothing else can accomplish in life. Someday it will all make sense. In that day, there will be no more sorrow or cying or pain. And Jacob will be completely whole. Someday.


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14 responses

10 08 2003
allenb

EZ, I don’t have the words … maybe later on they’ll return to me. I don’t know. But my heart goes out to you. God bless you and be with you.

Love,

Allen

10 08 2003
foolssong

The Brightest Smile For A Hundred Miles

“But he’s a precious young man with a delightful sense of humor and an intelligent mind. . . . Jacob touches people in a deep place.”

He is certainly the brightest part of my Sunday mornings, and I’m so very thankful to have him in class.

I’m also extremely grateful for your sharing this story. It’s been such a pleasure learning more about Jacob, and being reminded again at the awesome measure of God’s power and grace. Thank you.

10 08 2003
jeannedamoff

Re: The Brightest Smile For A Hundred Miles

Thank you for loving my sons. Both of them.

10 08 2003
ilovespit

thank you so much for posting this. there was a message in it that i really needed to hear.

10 08 2003
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Allen. I realize it’s not easy to know what to say to a story like this. For me, knowing that Jacob’s life touched your heart is enough. ♥

10 08 2003
jeannedamoff

I’m so very, very thankful that Jacob’s story helped you, Alisha. Every time his life encourages someone else, we feel like we understand a little better why such things happen.

10 08 2003
jiggerhazzle

In the soundless awe and wonder
words fall short to hope again
How beautiful, how vast Your love is
New forever, World without an end.
-Five Iron Frenzy-

How I long for that day.
Ryan

11 08 2003
jeannedamoff

For a group with a CD titled “Cheeses of Nazareth,” they write pretty profound lyrics, eh? :o)

Yes, life is interesting. Sometimes the love I feel for the people in my life is so overwhelming, I can’t stand the thought of not being in this world with them. But it’s not the perfect love we will have then. Love without fear. I can only imagine.

14 08 2003
Anonymous

Ryan showed me your journal. I’ve read it all. It did my heart good to laugh and cry at your musings. Thank you for sharing about Jacob. What a blessing!
I’m not a writer but appreciate good writing. How’s the empty nest? Jana

14 08 2003
jeannedamoff

Hey, move over! This is MY empty nest!

Hi, Jana! Welcome to my journal. I’m glad you enjoyed reading it, and I’m honored that you went back and read the whole thing. Feel free to comment any time. I love comments! I think that’s the coolest thing about this whole journal format. Well, . . . that and the fact that no one really critiques style or mechanics here. :o) It’s enough to keep someone like me from writing the stuff I actually should be working on. *ahem*

Okay, anyway, the empty nest. So far it doesn’t seem so empty. Grace flies back from Costa Rica tomorrow, and we’ll have her around for a few weeks. Next week we go back to Chicago for Luke’s orientation. George has been here most of the summer, and Jacob’s aide is on vacation this week. It actually feels rather crowded for an empty nest. ;o) But I’m sure reality will settle in after Grace goes back to Seattle and George gets into his fall semester routine. One big difference I notice so far: Luke’s room is VERY clean!

16 08 2003
cmortmain

I remember so well

when this happened. I got home from work that day, and when I walked in the door, I immediately got frightened at the horrible look Steve had on his face. I knew something terrible had happened, and when he told me about the accident I was physically ill.

I wanted to call you and tell you how I felt, but I was hesitant to intrude on your worry and grief, and instead I prayed for you and your sweet family. I never felt it was enough.

It’s true that you have so much to be thankful for. Most of all, of course, you have your dear son.

This was painful to read, but I admire your courage and spiritual strength so much. You are and Jacob are an inspiration, J.

16 08 2003
jeannedamoff

Please know that it was enough.

Thank you for your kind words. I understand the sense of helplessness when someone else suffers — wishing to do something, but not knowing what will be appreciated. We were amazed and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support we received after the accident and continued to receive in the months that followed, but the most important gift of all was prayer. Only God had the power to deliver Jacob from that affliction. Thank you for praying for us. We are eternally grateful. ♥

23 09 2003
ragamuffen

I am too drenched in the emotion of all this to really form a response. I know that I have something I want to say, I just can’t put the words together. I can tell you that this is the most touching thing I’ve read in some time. You are so lucky to have Jacob. What a blessing he must be to you. So many of us go through life with blessings that we rarely even notice or know that we have. What a wonderful family you have, what a wonderful you that your family has.

Thank you for telling me to read this. I needed it.

xoxo

23 09 2003
jeannedamoff

Thank you for reading it.

You have shown so much interest in Jacob, I wanted you to have the whole story. Also, I wanted you to read it, because your own stories reveal some of the ways you have survived life’s beatings.

Though I don’t pretend to understand it, I am fully convinced that a loving God uses all suffering for good purpose, no matter how horrible the circumstance.

I am continually touched by your insights and sensitivity. You have endured much and yet maintained the ability to find and see beauty everywhere. I admire you for it.

Blessings of peace on you, your family, and your new home. EZ

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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