A friend recommended this title. It is His grace that has carried us this far and it will be His grace that will allow Alex to see again.
On March 17, 2012, Alex performed with his JROTC Drill Team in Ridgeland's final drill competition of the school year and brought home another 11 trophies bringing the year's total to 109 awards, annihilating the school record.
Alex served as a member of the JROTC at Ridgeland for four years. He was also an Honors student planning for graduation in a couple months, college, and committing to serve his country in the United States Air Force.
On March 18th, the day after the drill team competition, Alex got up early to go help his grandparents move furniture from their house to the garage. He was in the back of the truck securing a mirror with the truck moving just under 10mph to the other side of the house when the mirror shifted. In his attempt to catch the mirror, Alex lost his balance and fell over the side of the truck. He fell to the pavement hitting directly on the top of his head. He lost consciousness immediately.
While waiting at the hospital, we were sure the doctors would come tell us that he suffered a concusion and would need to watch him closely for a few days. Instead, the neurosurgeon came and told us that Alex had suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and would need surgery immediately to save his life. The surgery consisted of removing most of the right side of his skull, a portion of the frontal and temporal lobes of his brain due to the swelling on the right side and inserting a drain into the left side of his skull to relieve the hemorrhaging on the left side. The drain proved not to be sufficient, so a second surgery a few hours later was required to remove the left side of his skull as well.
After the surgeries we were told that Alex had less than a 10% chance of surviving the next 48 hours. He was in a coma and on life support.
This was the beginning of many years of Alex beating the odds, surpassing expectations, displaying amazing strength and character, and never giving up. He spent 30 days in Erlanger's ICU in a coma. During this time, Charlie and I had taken up residence in their waiting room, taking every opportunity they would give us to hold our son's hand and encourage him to hang on, and directing our focus on making sure that the doctors fought just as hard to keep him with us as he was fighting to stay. After 30 days Alex was stable enough to be moved to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta where they would work to wake him from the coma and begin extensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
We spent 6 weeks with Alex at the Shepherd Center and watched as he slowly regained consciousness and began learning how to navigate and function in his new world. He couldn't move his left side at all, could only make small uncontrolled movements with his right side, couldn't speak, couldn't eat, was blind in his left eye and had limited vision in his right. He had to begin learning every basic function of what it took to live, including breathing on his own, because when he arrived he was still on a ventilator that was breathing for him through the tracheotomy.
Alex's high school graduation was quickly approaching while we were at the Shepherd Center. His recovery was our priority but we knew how important graduating was to him and didn't want him to miss this milestone in his life. Even if there was the possibility that he wouldn't remember it, we would at least have the photos and videos to share with him later that he could use to build those memories. Alex completed the program at Shepherd Center and was released to our care just two days before his graduation. We drove home 133 miles following the ambulance that was carrying our son; not sure what his future would hold, if we would know how to provide the care he needed, and scared that we would fall short of what he deserved.
A couple days after getting him home, Alex graduated with his class of 2012 from Ridgeland High School. There wasn't a single person in the auditorium that was sitting as he was rolled across the stage to receive his diploma and hardly a dry eye. It was very moving. The love and support poured over him and we knew that with time and a lot of hard work, Alex would be okay.
A couple weeks after graduation and getting him settled in at home, we enrolled him in outpatient therapy at Siskin Rehabilitation Hospital. He received therapy at Siskin for the next several years. During this time, Alex slowly learned to speak and eat again. He also continued the challenging work of regaining movement in his right arm and leg. Eventually, he was able to maintain balance, stand with assistance, and even walk short distances, which we were originally told that he would most likely never be able to do.
We have had so many blessings through this difficult time. The support of family, friends, and even those we didn't know but met in hospital waiting rooms that offered words of encouragement and healing prayers, provided us with the strength to go on when we felt we may be defeated. The staff at Siskin assisted Alex in making some of the greatest levels of improvement and success in his recovery. The unending support and love of his family and friends allowed him to heal in areas of his life where therapy and medical technology could never reach.
Alex begins and ends every day of his life the same way, with a smile. He has never felt sorry for himself for the challenges he has been given and may face for the rest of his life. We have provided Alex with the care and assistance he has needed but he has given us so much more. He gives us purpose, hope, meaning of what it is to be the best you can be, and awareness that the impossible is possible if you don't let excuses get in the way.
I could continue Alex's story that would take you weeks and months to read. There is so much I would like to include and share with you. The little I have covered doesn't even begin to paint a full picture of what a miracle Alex's life truly is, how proud we are to be his parents, and what a blessing it is to know him or even to those who have only had the opportunity to meet him for a short time. The last five years can't possibly define what Alex has or will be able to accomplish. I believe that God has a special purpose for him and that he will continue to touch many lives through his courage and strength. His recovery continues and he still has many mountains to climb and obstacles to defeat. This is where you come in.
Thank you for reading Alex's story and being patient with me as I have rambled on to share it with you. I wanted to try and bring you into his life so that you might be able to experience his story in a more intimate way than mere words could provide.
Alex has recently received a blessing and a great opportunity that we didn't believe would ever happen for him in our lifetime. He has been accepted as 1 of only 500 applicants to participate in a clinical trial that could reginerate the optic nerve in his left eye - allowing him to see again and regain the left side of his world. The clinical trial is called "Stem Cell Ophthalmology Treatment Study (SCOTS2)". This is the largest stem cells trial to date in ophthalmology and is using autologous bone marrow derived stem cells that will be taken from Alex's own bone and then inserted into his optic nerve.
This clinical study is not grant funded and the surgery is not covered by our private insurance. The out-of-pocket cost that must be paid prior to treatment is $22,000.00. His surgery is scheduled for January 16, 2018. I know that collecting this money in such a short time may be an astronomical task to say the least. But what I have learned from Alex is that with the love and support of family, friends, and others who live to make a positive difference in the lives of others, the impossible is always possible. Alex has been and continues to be a blessing to so many. Please be a blessing in his life by donating what you can so that we can make this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity happen for him. We can't thank you enough.
I thank you for your kindness, thoughtfulness and prayers.
- Alex Parks
May God forever bless you and your loved ones.
- Teresa and Charlie Parks
For information on the SCOTS2 Clincial Trial, please click on the following link:
Stem Cell Ophthalmology Treatment Study 2
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