Love and determination conquers all
Nothing could stop 18-year-old David from being part of his brother Donald’s wedding. Not a devastating accident that left David in a coma for weeks. And not the coronavirus epidemic and quarantine at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.
Now a patient recovering at Ranken Jordan, David had looked forward to his role as best man long before his accident. And his family was determined to include David despite the obstacles. Thanks to technology, faith, intensive therapy, and a few excited Ranken Jordan team members, David was able to stand up as a “virtual” best man at his brother’s wedding March 27.
On the way to the church, David’s brother, Donald, and future wife, Brianna, paid a surprise visit to Ranken Jordan to see David and his mom, Heather. David was already decked out in a suit and tie for the wedding. Since the soon-to-be newlyweds couldn’t enter the building due to coronavirus precautions, David and his brother fist bumped through the window as staff and other patients happily looked on to see the bride’s beautiful gown.
Meanwhile, the Ranken Jordan team set up an iPad so David and Heather could participate in the wedding virtually. The ceremony was streamed from the church on Facebook Live with David and Heather “present” on FaceTime at Ranken Jordan. David even made a speech and could literally stand up for his brother as best man.
The emotions overflowed considering just weeks before David couldn’t speak and he had just graduated from a wheelchair to a walker two days before the wedding.
Brightening a bleak picture
The wedding had been rescheduled after David was in a horrific car accident Jan. 11. David’s car was hit by a semi, causing the car to roll down an embankment. The accident left David with serious injuries including a fractured spine and a traumatic brain injury. He also had broken ribs that punctured his lungs and a broken shoulder bone. At one point during rescue, he stopped breathing.
For two weeks after the accident, David laid in a coma, motionless, with a tube in his throat to help him breathe and a feeding tube in his stomach. The fit high school varsity wrestler quickly lost 53 pounds. Doctors in the St. Louis hospital painted a bleak picture for David’s future.
“A doctor told us it could be three to six months before David woke up, and that he would not be able to walk or talk, and he wouldn’t be the same person,” Heather explains. “But I believed God wasn’t having that for his future. I leaned on my faith and prayed hard.”
Heather says the same night as the doctor made the discouraging prognosis, she woke up by David’s bedside to see David tapping his foot and moving his hands and fingers. Two days later, he opened his left eye and seemed to look around.
There was talk about transferring David to a long-term care facility but Heather had other plans. “No matter what his condition, I would care for him at home if I had to.”
A nurse then told Heather about Ranken Jordan.
“I had never heard of it before but when I learned more I knew that’s where my son needed to be,” Heather says.
Preparing the best man for the future
When David arrived at Ranken Jordan Feb. 4, he only had one eye open, couldn’t move his left side, and was unable to control his right side. He was receiving oxygen through a tube in his throat.
“I remember coming into Ranken Jordan the first time and it felt like a thousand bricks were lifted off our shoulders,” Heather says. “It was so beautiful and everyone there was smiling, happy and positive. I’m so grateful we came to Ranken Jordan.”
She says within a week, they saw big changes in David. First, he was weaned off receiving oxygen through his trach. He was also put on medication that “wakes up the brain,” Heather explains. “You could see the medication was working. David tried to talk and was more alert.”
Through frequent physical, speech, occupational and music therapy, David began talking again and recently started using a walker instead of a wheelchair. While his brain is still healing and his left side isn’t 100% yet, the former 170-pound wrestler is doing pushups again to gain strength.
“David works hard in therapy and pushes himself,” Heather says. “He has always been a go-getter and works to be the best he can be. That’s still in his soul.”
Heather is inspired by the Ranken Jordan team who have helped David. “They have a little fight for each kid. I love the passion they all have and you can tell they love their job. Everyone there is a very caring, encouraging motivator.”
Now David is focused on the future. In the near term, David is working to go home by mid-April, graduate from high school in late May, and attend his high school prom in June.
“I hope I can be an athlete again,” David says. “And I’m planning to enroll in college in the fall to become a history teacher.”
David also looks forward to attending a bigger wedding celebration for his brother and new sister-in-law—after the coronavirus crisis passes and when David and his family are all able to celebrate together in person.
And the best man will once again stand up for the groom.