A Pulaski County boy who was left
severely brain damaged in an accidental hanging is heading home.
Jason Rooker will be leaving Kluge
Children's Rehabilitation Center sometime next week, after he is
weaned from most of his medications, said his parents, Greg and
Jason, 11, nearly died when he accidentally
hanged himself last June with a toy lasso while playing in his back
yard. He was flown to Carilion Roanoke Community Hospital, where
he was in a coma for nearly three days, then transferred to the
Kluge Center shortly afterward.
He still can't talk, eat or control
his arms or legs and must be fed and medicated through a tube in
his stomach. But his parents now accept the idea that his therapy
can continue just as well at home.
"We're ready to try something
else," said Rooker, owner of the Southwest Virginia Enterprise
in Wytheville and two other weekly newspapers.
The Rookers also have been under
pressure from their insurance company, Trigon, which has continued
to pay for Jason's care on a month-to-month or week-to-week basis.
But the possibility of coverage ending has persisted for months.
Rehabilitation and medical care
had run about $1,000 a day, but several months ago Trigon negotiated
with the Kluge Center to cut the charges in half. The Rookers said
the center assured them that Jason could stay at no charge, if necessary,
until it was medically safe for him to go home.
Meanwhile, a special wheelchair
Jason will need has been delivered; the chair cost about $4,200.
A special shower chair with a head support and straps, which cost
about $400, has been ordered. Insurance paid for neither.
The Rookers are apprehensive about
taking Jason home, but they have reluctantly concluded that the
Kluge Center has done all it can for their son. Most of the center's
20 or so patients are recovering from crippling auto accident injuries.
"It's like getting up [at all
hours of the night] for an infant," Mrs. Rooker said.
The Rookers said many friends have
offered to help so they can take occasional breaks. The couple plan
a trip to Philadelphia in late April for a week of training in how
to work with their son.
The Rookers and others will help
retrain undamaged parts of Jason's brain to take over physical functions
he has lost - chewing, swallowing, talking, using his hands and
The Rookers hope their son will
regain the use of his hands and learn to walk again in five to 10