June 24, 2014

Recovery Is a Process—And a Destination | Friends | Central Ohio

As I mentioned in a previous post, Becky and I have spent a lot of our weekends in Central Ohio over the past two months.  I wish I could say it was for leisure or a big job, but unfortunately, it was a far more serious situation.  Our friends Justin and Jennifer—a couple I've known for over a decade, and who over the past two years have become even more dear to Becky and I— had their life turned upside down on May 2 when Justin fell at work and suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Before I get into the story of the last two months, I want to introduce you to Justin and Jennifer before Justin's accident.  The photos at left and below are from an event Becky and I planned at Malabar Farm's Pugh Cabin (near Mansfield) with Justin and Jen back in October.  Justin and Jen share a love for science fiction with Becky and I, and they love to cosplay as much as Becky does...so of course, we planned the party as a costume-only affair where all our friends were required to dress with a steam punk or Victorian-era look.

Since everyone would be dressed up so spectacularly, I thought it would be a great opportunity to set up a photo session for everyone.  I'm so glad to have so many great photos from that day that really capture Justin's personality...his charisma, his love of life, his love for his friends, and of course his love for Jen.  And while they may not have much materially, Justin and Jennifer will literally do anything within their power for a friend in need.

So when friends like these need your help, you move heaven and earth to be there for them!

And on the afternoon of May 2, Becky and I received text messages from Jen alerting us that their life had just changed for the foreseeable future.  Justin, a roofer, had fallen while measuring a job, knocking him unconscious with a severe head injury.  

The following week was a roller coaster that followed Justin's intracranial pressure.  Everyone did what they could to support and distract Jen and to care for their three dogs and two cats.  Eventually it became apparent that at least most of Justin's "marbles" were still in his head, and that he was going to make it out of the hospital—but there were a couple of scares where doctors successfully averted catastrophic brain damage.  I have to commend the staff at Riverside Methodist Hospital's Neurological Intensive Care Unit for doing a phenomenal job in taking care of our friend!

After ten days in ICU, Justin was transferred to OhioHealth Rehabilitation Hospital in Columbus.

Here he is with Jen, and one his other best friends, Ember, on his first weekend in rehab.  While Justin still had over two weeks in the hospital ahead of him, their friends and family not only managed moving them from their old apartment, but they also contributed items to a yard sale and set up a website to raise money to help them with expenses.

On June 7, Becky and I along with another friend spent the afternoon with Justin and Jen.  We took Justin to see the movie we had originally planned (before his accident) to see together here in Cleveland (in costume of course) when it opened two weeks earlier.  After the past month, however, we were all happy just to have Justin with us!

I snapped this photo of them just before we left their house:

While Justin is about 80% or so back to his old self, he still has a ways to go to get back to 100.  He returns to work (on ground-only duty at first) in a few weeks, but it could still be several months before all of his marbles get put back the way they were before his accident.  Becky and I are so happy to see how much progress Justin has made in such a short time, and to see how much of a rock Jen has been for him throughout this entire ordeal.

While waiting rooms and tears weren't what Becky and I expected to share with Justin and Jennifer back in May, I am very happy to have spent the time we did with them and the resulting closer relationship we enjoy with them and all the other friends we've made down in the Columbus area!  

It also makes me happy that I have a reference of Justin at his best in October—so we can all see the goal of his recovery process—when he's again 100%!

Visit the website, helpjustin.com, if you would like to help Justin and Jennifer cover their expenses until they're both able to fully return to work. 

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