Driven to Walk Again

“On May 1st, I got shot.”


On any given summer afternoon, you might have found Jaeden outside with his brothers and friends, lobbing a football back and forth by the street.  With the panic of the pandemic settling in, outdoor activities became the only way for Jaeden and his peers to interact.  Life was changing for everyone around that time, but not many experienced such brutal change as Jaeden.


On May 1st, 2020, just steps away from his front door, in the same spot Jaeden played football during the summers, a bullet hit Jaeden’s vertebrae.  A few minutes later, Jaeden was in a hospital bed at an intensive care unit undergoing life-saving medical procedures.  A few hours later, a doctor told Jaeden he may never be able to walk again.


At the time, hospitals had extremely restricted visitor access due to COVID-19.  Jaeden would stay extremely isolated in his hospital bed for an entire week, and because he had just turned 18, he was not allowed to have any visitors.  Jaeden had just undergone the most painful and frightening physical and mental trauma of his life, and he was not allowed to see his twin brother, his friends, or his grandparents.  Even his parents were only allowed to visit for short periods of time, and were putting themselves at considerable risk by doing so.


Despite the chaos and pain of initial stay at a traditional hospital, Jaeden began to show signs of recovery.  After a week he gained some feeling in his feet and toes.  That was when Jaeden’s doctor recommended that his family think about moving to Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital for Jaeden’s rehabilitation.


At a time when most hospitals were heavily restricting visitors, Ranken Jordan was doing everything they could to safely allow patients to see family members.  As part of their unique Care Beyond the Bedside approach to rehabilitation, the healthcare specialists at Ranken Jordan aim to heal the whole family, as well as the child.  In fact, as soon as he arrived at Ranken Jordan, he could tell it was different from any hospital he had been to.


“It doesn’t really look like a hospital.”


Ranken Jordan isn’t an ordinary hospital.  Inside the pastel colored building are doctors, nurses, therapists, child life specialists, educators, and more, all operating with single guiding philosophy; consider the children first.  “I was surprised by all of the activities at Ranken Jordan that weren’t physical therapy.”  During a stay at Ranken Jordan, patients may plant a garden, play their favorite video games, learn how to bake, practice a musical instrument, or shoot basketballs.  In fact, over 70% of patients’ waking hours are spent up and out of their rooms.  It’s all part of the Care Beyond the Bedside model that Ranken Jordan has been practicing for more than 80 years.


Kids ages 0 through 21 stay at Ranken Jordan.  As one of the older kids staying at Ranken Jordan, Jaeden was old enough to make many of his own decisions regarding his rehabilitation.  Being faced with such an incredible trauma, it would have been easy, and understandable, if Jaeden had wanted to resign himself to being in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.  But, the morning after Jaeden’s first night at Ranken Jordan, his therapists came and got him out of bed.


“My therapists were my friends.  They got me to talk.  They were encouraging me to get better every day.”  Keeping his head clear and positive was Jaeden’s biggest focus.  Jaeden was driven to get better, and he was inspired to go home.  He worked as hard as he could, every day.  He learned everything he could about his injury, and would ask his therapists if he could try new exercises he had researched online.  The doctors, nurses, and therapists at Ranken Jordan gave Jaeden a chance, but Jaeden was the one who took it.


Jaeden never lost sight of his goals.  He knew that soon enough, he would be back in his front yard playing football.  After three months, Jaeden got strong enough to make the transition back home.  But, he says that his journey isn’t over.  Jaeden is now an outpatient at Ranken Jordan, and says he will continue to go to Ranken Jordan for as long as he can.  “Right now I’m working on balance.”