On August 1, 2009, Kellie and I moved my stuff out to Mitchell, South Dakota where I was to being my graduate school work with DWU as well as be an assistant coach for the mens and womens soccer teams there.
I believe the first day of preseason was August 14. This was also the same day that we had an exchange student that flew into South Dakota from Northern Ireland. Jason was coming to the US to study for one year, he just happened to be a soccer player also. We were excited to see Jason, unfortunately, we didn’t get to see him until August 15 due to the jet lag and exhaustion from the flight over.
Jason joined up with us on August 15 and 16. Unfortunately, he wasn’t allowed to train due to his paperwork and insurance stuff. So, we banked on August 17 for him to “officially” start training. Jason’s first training session…a fitness test that the rest of the team had already completed.
Little did I know…this day (August 17, 2009) would be something that I would think about every day and night…
At 6:30-7:00am, Jason embarked on his run. He was in peak physical condition; he ran 3 miles in just around 18 minutes. Shortly thereafter, things just went wrong. As we were walking back to the Wellness Center to join the rest of the team, I noticed that Jason was dropping his water bottle quite often. I thought he was very exhausted, maybe dehydrated a bit — I mean, he is 3 days from flying halfway around the world and just ran 3 miles [very fast!] in weather he’s not used to.
I sent Jason to go get some water out of the Wellness Center because he had drank all of his. I went to join Coach and the team. I think I got about 50 feet from Jason and looked back…he started walking toward me, for some reason. Then, he walked straight into a fence, made it through the gate and almost collapsed straight onto the softball field (the team was training in the outfield of an old softball field). I immediately ran over to him to keep him on his feet. His arm over my shoulder, we started walking to the Wellness Center to get some immediate help.
Just then, thankfully, a physical plant worker showed up on a golf cart to give Jason a ride…AND…an athletic trainer was coming from the parking lot! This was a tremendous blessing! Thank the Lord that they showed up when they did.
I talked to Coach a minute to tell him what’s up, then I went to the athletic training room to meet up with Jason to figure out what happened. I got there and immediately had to go get my car to take Jason to the ER — it was quicker than calling an ambulance.
At the ER, the nurses/doctors ran several tests and determined that Jason had — what we were praying against — a stroke…
The hospital had little time to act. There’s a window from when the stroke had occurred to when they could administer a VERY intense medication. After making numerous calls to Jason’s family and others to get permission…they were able to administer the medication 15 minutes from the time the window closed. It was then time, shortly after the medicine was administered, for the hospital to transport Jason to Sioux Falls via ambulance to another hospital where they have specialized care.
I went and got Jason’s admissions counselor, Megan, and we made the trek to Sioux Falls behind the ambulance. I had the opportunity to talk to Jason’s dad, Martin, on the phone on the way to inform him of the situation. Needless to say, Megan and I had a rough introduction to each other, but it has been a great friendship since.
I stayed with Jason that night in the hospital. Megan did tremendous work in figuring out plans for Jason’s parents and they were able to arrive the next day, had a place to stay and food to eat! There were GREAT people that were EXTREMELY supportive of all involved. It was a true blessing.
I then joined back up with the team and made arrangements to take the team to see Jason in the hospital. I believe we went on a Thursday night. It was a rather emotional time for the whole team. Jason had gone from “one of the guys” to fighting for his life.
After a week in the Sioux Falls hospital, Jason was able to fly back to Northern Ireland — stupid insurance companies cost so much and took him from extremely good care!!! After repeated updates from Jason’s mom, Ursula, we’ll fastforward to September 2010…an event that went hand-in-hand with the Waterside Half Marathon in Derry City, Northern Ireland, all of Jason’s friends and family planned a “Jogging for Jay.” It was a benefit that funds went to support a stroke awareness association in Northern Ireland. The family and friends raised big money and flew Megan and I over…man was I anxious to see Jason!!!
I cannot explain the moment to see Jason again…nothing gives it justice. Jason is still recovering today. He has fought and fought. He has worked so hard. There have been prayers and more prayers for him. The longest effects that he’s dealt with are developing his speech as well as full strength in his right arm/hand. It’s just great to see that Jason has never given up. He lives his life. He is full of love and smiles. Unfortunately, he hasn’t fully recovered yet…but all thoughts and prayers are hoping for that full recovery.
After recent emails back and forth with Ursula, Jason is expected to graduate from college in July 2012!
Please pray for Jason and his recovery. His family and friends could also use the prayers for continued strength and comfort. It’d be great to get more help for Jason, but I am exhausted of ways to help. There’s been numerous fundraisers for him. I am just all thought out of ways to help. I cannot wait to see him, his family, and his friends again…as well as Northern Ireland. They are great!
Vita. Veritas. Victoria.
Left to right: Aimee (Jason’s girlfriend), me, Megan, Martin, Jason, and Ursula
For more reading on Jason, here are a couple of newspaper articles: