Miracles. While many equate them with acts of Jesus that we have read about in the Bible, there are those who are fortunate to witness them firsthand. Just ask Bob and April Jacobson. Their lives were turned upside down in an instant when their son, Hunter, was critically injured in a motorbike accident on December 2 of last year.
Riding with a friend in Naples at a designated riding area at the time and outfitted in full, top-of-the-line riding gear, Hunter was preparing for an upcoming race in Kalispell. While no one witnessed the accident, they do know that Hunter went off of a jump and did not land well.
He was transported to Kootenai Medical Center where he was diagnosed with critical head trauma, a ruptured spleen, 11 broken ribs, a broken collarbone, broken scapula and a collapsed lung. After the medical team at Kootenai Medical Center removed his spleen, Hunter was transported to Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane. With pressure increasing in Hunter’s brain, the doctors at Sacred Heart removed the left side of Hunter’s skull as well as a small portion of his brain to relieve the pressure.
Now, approximately seven months later, Hunter’s progress has been quite miraculous. Hunter stayed in Spokane progressing out of a coma into a “conscious coma” until February 19 when he was transported to Madonna Rehabilitation in Nebraska where he remains today. Madonna is one of the nation’s foremost providers for medical and physical rehabilitation for adults and children and specializes in complex medical, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, pulmonary conditions, severe stroke other neurological conditions and pediatric rehabilitation.
“It’s difficult to find a facility that treats TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury] for kids under 16 years of age,” said Hunter’s dad, Bob. He and Hunter’s mom, April, sought advice from medical providers and researched facilities that fit Hunter’s condition.
Bob accompanied Hunter on the flight to Nebraska on a plane equipped with an ICU nurse and a respiratory therapist. “The flight was a direct flight and went well,” said Bob. “We used American Medical Response, and they did a great job getting it all lined out for us.”
In the four months since being transferred to Madonna, Hunter has made remarkable progress. He communicates by nodding his head for yes and no and does math problems on a computer by looking to the correct answer on the screen.
“It’s difficult to explain, but Hunter’s eye contact is lined to the computer screen. He has physical, speech, occupational, aquatics and recreational therapy every day and even some on weekends,” explains Bob. “They started aquatics about a month ago and that has helped significantly to get his tone and movement back in his lower body.” Hunter recently began using a walking machine in therapy to help him build that memory again as well.
April quit her job and moved to Nebraska where she rents an apartment that is handicapped equipped. While Hunter remains in in-patient care, Bob said they are unsure of how long insurance will continue to pay for that.
“He might have to start a day program or outpatient therapy in the near future. It all depends on my insurance. We do plan on keeping him there for outpatient because we feel Madonna is doing a great job with him and he is improving on a consistent basis,” said Bob who travels down once a month to visit his youngest of three sons.
While Hunter is receiving extraordinary care, his friends and family miss him and long to see him in person. Bob recently traveled to Nebraska and took a couple of Hunter’s friends along with him, something he wanted to do for not only Hunter’s friends but for Hunter as well. Bob and April’s other two sons, Tanner and Walker, have been able to travel to see their brother a couple times, but their work keeps them busy and unable to take off much time to see Hunter.
“It’s tough that he is so far away, but we know that he is getting the best care possible at one of the top facilities in the United States, so we are just dealing with it,” said Bob. “Family and friends have been traveling down there on a consistent basis, so it’s been good for April and Hunter.”
Earlier this year, the community came together to host a benefit for the Jacobson family in what Bob calls one of the most unreal events he has ever attended. “I don’t think I will ever comprehend that night. I left the building a couple of times to take a walk and try to soak it all in but still couldn’t comprehend it. I figured about 300 to 400 people would show, and I believe it was about 1,200 to 1,400,” he said, thanking Carmen Daugherty, Steve Russo, Monica Gunter, Anna Blackford, Carolyn Jordan, Karel Miller, Bobbi Burnett and Seth Lukesic of Mountain Moto and so many others who did an amazing job organizing the event.
Bob goes onto say the family wants to thank all who helped, donated, attended the benefit or just sent a note. “It’s helped ease a lot stress, especially with April quitting her job to be with Hunter full time. I really don’t have the words to describe what the community has done for Hunter. Everything that has happened has just been unreal. Thank you everybody.”
The medical team has not given the Jacobson family a prognosis, in large part because with a brain injury there are so many possible outcomes. “They are keeping an eye on his skull flap. It might not be growing back as it should but they will do a CAT scan in about two months to see how it looks then. If it is not growing as it should, they will have to do a surgery and replace it with an artificial one,” said Bob, who said they plan on keeping Hunter at Madonna as long as he continues to make progress.
One cannot experience such a life-altering event without some reflection. For Bob, he said he has learned to enjoy each day that he has. “In one split moment your life can change drastically. It’s made me realize that a lot of little things I was always concerned with really don’t matter. Focus on the bigger picture of life and enjoy each day.”
If you would like to donate to the Jacobson family, you can do so at any Wells Fargo Bank under Hunter Jacobson Benefit or go their GoFundMe and search for Hunter’s Medical Fund.