Friday, February 29, 2008

On this day 20 years ago...

On February 29, 1988, my 23 year-old son, Jeff, broke his neck. He was in the back seat of a BMW wearing a seat belt. The driver, who apparently thought he was Mario Andretti, failed to follow the road around a curve and drove the BMW into an embankment at high speed.

My son recovered consciousness but couldn't breathe because his airway was blocked. He observed that his fingertips were blue. Apparently out of nowhere and quite miraculously, a passerby opened the car door and gently straightened out Jeff’s neck so he could breathe. He held his head in position until the ambulance arrived and Jeff’s neck was stabilized.

When the family gathered at the hospital the next day, we were told that Jeff would most likely be paralyzed, but there was no way to know how extensive or how permanent the paralysis would be. At first, Jeff couldn’t move his limbs and also suffered from sensory loss. There are more details at Jeff’s post, My Broken Neck: A 20 Year Anniversary.

Jeff spent months wearing a “halo” and still has the marks on his temples where it attached to his skull. He slowly regained mobility and the sensory loss lessened.

Ten years later, in May of 1998, Jeff and I ran a marathon together. It was his first competitive race and his training consisted of several eight-mile runs on an indoor gym track. We didn’t break any records.

A few years later, Jeff entered his first full distance triathlon and is now doing them all over the world. He shares his athletic experiences here.

On February 23rd, Jeff participated in the Ironman Malaysia Triathlon. It was tough in the heat and the mosquitoes came out as the sun set. Here he is, halfway through the 26.2 mile run:
With very little training, he managed to finish in approximately 14 hours and considers it a warm up for the Ironman South Africa on April 13th.

There’s a lot more to Jeff than his competitive races. A Google search will satisfy the curious.

I’m just so grateful that Jeff recovered and that he is packing so much into life and getting so much out of it.

(photo of Jeff from his blog; photo from Malaysia triathlon, thanks to Jeff’s girlfriend, Michelle)


Anonymous said...

This is also a day that will be forever etched in my mind. As I was walking into my office, first thing in the morning the phone was ringing, it was Gail. I had recently left Joshua in Jeff's care. Jeff had planned to take Joshua with him on that business trip so my question was "Where is Joshua?" Since Jeff was unable to communicate we (Gail and I) had an additional dilemma of finding Joshua. I was so scared for Jeff and remember praying the entire way to the Bay Area that Jeff would be okay. Thank you to the higher powers for whatever hand they had in Jeff's recovery.

Lisa Erne

Anonymous said...

Wow - quite a story, Jonas. perhaps that guy was from another world or dimension.

The coolest thing? The link to your mom's blog. :-)

Anonymous said...

Haha - meant to leave that one on Jonas's blog. I think the photo fooled me. Nice to find your blog, you have some really great thoughts in here.

Pegggggy Z - works with your son. :-)