Family Sustained By Family, Friends, and Faith

Roanoke Times, New River Current, August 18, 1996 Page NRV2

By Greg Rooker - Guest Column

August 13. It's been two months since my son Jason's accident from which his life was saved by CPR. He has suffered substantial brain damage due to cerebral anoxia or lack of sufficient oxygen to feed brain cells.

Last week Jason experienced the most significant improvement of his six-week stay at Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center in Charlottesville. In short, he had his best week yet.

When he entered Kluge, on the two scales which measure effective response, Jason was classified a 1 on the Rancho Los Amigos Scale which runs from 1 to 8. On the more sensitive Western Neurosensory Stimulation Profile which runs to 113, he was admitted at a 5.

Through the first five weeks Jason's condition changed only very slowly. He had reached Rancho 2 and 18 on the Western.

He is much more alert and capable of following people around the room with his eyes in a continuous manner. He is able to track objects vertically and horizontally. When not agitated he has watched television for up to an hour at a time. Jason has smiled purposefully 5 times.

We believe, as do his therapists, that he senses our presence. He seems to draw a special comfort from his maternal grandfather, Frank Vickers of Draper.

Last week, Jason took his first spoonful of food since his accident. Polly, his speech therapist, coaxed a couple of spoonfuls of ice cream into his mouth. After taking several moments deciding what to do with it, he swallowed. Today he ate an ounce and a half.

He is still unable to purposefully use his arms or legs and cannot speak or signal in a conclusive manner. Most days Jason is plagued with diencephalic seizures which cause his muscles to cramp and remain rigid for hours.

Many of the doctors we have consulted have given us little hope for the future. Nevertheless, Fran and I remain hopeful. Our hope has been fueled by hundreds and hundreds of cards, letters, and gifts from all over the Commonwealth. It has been breathed into us by the many friends and relatives who have become intimately involved in our tragedy. Many of them have graciously volunteered days of time and traveled great distances at no small expense to lend their hands and hearts and hope.

Among the most meaningful are the half dozen letters and two visits we received from parents who had also faced similar bleak prognosis. Sometimes over several pages they related their own seemingly hopeless situations; all of which over time and with great effort have continued to improve. Their message in a phrase: "Don't give up hope…never give up hope."

Also extraordinary have been the scores of beautiful cards and messages from folks we've never met. They've come as far as Manassas, Norfolk, and Covington. More than 35 Sunday school classes and churches have responded prayerfully and by mail.

My family and I rejoice in the comfort, strength and determination these friends, known and unknown, have lent us. We feel the thousands of prayers offered on our behalf are responsible for Jason's progress.

Shortly after the accident, my wife related somewhat philosophically, "this is going to teach us new life lessons. We must be careful to learn them."

She was right. The most important thus far has been learning to get through each day, not on my own, but on the strength lent to me by loving people and my God.

Commonly, people offer condolences saying, "I just don't see how you're getting through this." My answer is: "We're not. We're surviving each day only by the strength of those loved ones gathered around us."

Thankfully, Greg Rooker


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