Early on October 1, 2004, I received a knock at my door from a police officer. He asked me if I knew Nathan Jorgenson and when I replied that he was my son, he suggested that I get to the hospital right away as he had been in a serious accident. When we arrived at the hospital, we were greeted by a Social Worker and Chaplin. We didn’t know for some minutes whether he was even alive. The emergency surgeon came in the room to give us a report on his condition. Nate had a fractured cervical vertebrae and extensive hemorrhaging in his brain. He may be paralyzed.
After two weeks in a semi-coma at Poudre Valley Hospital’s Neuro-Intensive Care Unit, three months in Denver at Craig Hospital (specialists in Traumatic Brain Injury), and one year and eight months at Center for Neurorehabilitation Services (CNS) for out-patient rehabilitation back here in Fort Collins, we were facing a new reality: what do we do now? Although Nate had made great progress, he was not able to live independently.
While in out-patient rehabilitation at CNS, Nate, who has always been a very social person, benefited greatly from a volunteer program where Sports and Recreational Science and Pre-OT students from Colorado State University met him at the health club to do a workout and socialize. Other students met him at home to work on “activities of daily living” which included; preparing a meal, playing cognitive games and planning the week’s activities.
After discharge from a year and eight months of out-patient rehabilitation at CNS, there were not many options. My concerns were that he not lose the momentum that he had worked so hard to gain and that he continue to be stimulated and have some kind of program to continue his progress and most important, not slip into depression. Without insurance to cover additional services, we were left on our own to find a solution for continued care.
As a result, in 2007, a grass roots group of friends and concerned citizens got together to establish the Shared Journeys Brain Injury Foundation which will fund the Shared Journeys Center (SJC), a fully-supervised Day Program and Supported Living Residence. The personal-management plans for the survivors attending will include: personal care, meal preparation, money management, community navigation, problem solving, socialization and vocational assistance. We also want to include the student volunteer piece that was so important to Nate’s out-patient rehabilitation.
As it is with most ventures, funding will be our major challenge, especially in these economic times. We know the majority of our funding will come from our community through fund raisers and donations as well as grants and donations from other foundations.
While this venture has been challenging, it has been most rewarding. It has given us a purpose beyond ourselves. We have established a community out-reach program where Nate, the young man that was responsible for the accident and myself, speak to groups of young people regarding the choices and consequences of drinking and driving. We have conducted a Pilot Day Treatment Program with four brain injury survivor participants that proved to be very successful and have given us the information we need to put together a full time program. We have met other survivors and their families and become friends and support for each other. We have met so many wonderful young student volunteers for our programs and fundraisers who have become like family and continued to stay in touch.
Nate is a different person from the one before the accident. His personality is basically the same, but he truly feels that the experience from the accident has given him purpose. He is happy and has a great attitude. He has been an inspiration to a lot of people.
People ask me how I do it. For me, it is simple (not easy). I’m a Mom who loves my only child and will do all in my power to see that he has every opportunity to be happy and fulfilled as a person. This experience has made me a stronger person too. I am more compassionate, patient and understanding of persons with disabilities and I am overwhelmed by the generosity of others. I have also had a lot of support from family and friends.
The hardest part has been taking care of me and unfortunately my health suffered. I finally realized that if I didn’t take care of myself, I wouldn’t be around to enjoy being a part of this life experience.
In January of this year, after months of hard work, Nate received his personal trainer certification and I am privileged to be his first client. In addition to getting healthy and fit, I have made a point to plan some vacation time and try to make life a little more balanced.
We laugh a lot, take one day at time and realize the value of each day: isn’t that a definition of a good life?
Updated July 2010