Though the operation was a success and he is on the mend, Jef has a long road of recovery ahead of him. The medical bills, cost of a new car and associated support & therapy will mount over the next weeks and months.
Any donation to help support Jef through his healing process, would be much appreciated!
[This campaign was created by Jef's two daughters, Lucie and Gemma.]
This is a letter Jessica wrote not long after the accident to a NYC art critic who became a friend during one of MONA's events last year;
I appreciate your interest in the skinny of what all happened on September 11, 2014.
Well, MONA had just welcomed Parisian art and Fashion photographer, Elene Usdin to the fair state of Michigan. Her work is great. She does a lot of work with opera, choreographers, herself, etc. She arrived Wednesday with her photo work to be hung for her opening at the Troy MONA Museum of Photography and New Media.
So the next day, Thursday 9/11, Jef left us to hang the show while he drove around doing some errands. Later in the afternoon, the Gao Brothers would arrive and be picked up by Adnan Charara, artist and owner of Galerie Camille housed in a beautiful space in Midtown Detroit on Cass Avenue that is hosting MONA projects.
Jef, Elene and I were to meet them all at the Guardian Building downtown for an art/design networking party, but mostly to show off the beautiful Guardian building.
So around 1pm Jef left to pick up some donated wine from a longtime supporter of Jef and MONA, Elie Wine Company in Birmingham. Also, to pick up makeshift signage materials from the hardware shop. Always down to the wire around these parts.
Meanwhile, Elene and I had placed everything around the museum galleries in Troy, in preparation of the final hang, and also worked on the title sheet and translations.
I was kind of stalling and moving slowly cause Jef is always there with me hanging shows.
At 5pm Jef calls me. I immediately ask, Where are You. He says, Beaumont (a hospital nearby) but I hear, Wal-Mart. I'm like, Why are you at Wal-Mart? We will get the cheese from Costco. He replies, No, I was hit by a bus.
But he says he's okay just waiting around ER. And so I’m thinking Elene and I can finish hanging (like that was even close to happening!) and then come pick Jef up and head downtown to welcome the Gao Brothers.
I don’t have a smart phone so until Jef called me on my cell I had no idea that Elie from the wine store had sent me an URGENT FB message as he saw what happened, running out to the crash to check on Jef, and tried to save the wine. So Elene and I head to the hospital.
Jef is still hanging in the hallway of the ER, cool as a cucumber. We talked and he was like, Elene doesn’t need to be here … go to Costco and then feed her some dinner. So we went to Costco which she enjoyed, the hugenesss of it all. The two of us came back to our house in Troy, next door to the museum, for pizza and I began the film I Am Love with Tilda Swinton for Elene to watch. Elene was staying with us while her show was being installed.
So I call Jef and tell him that I am returning to the hospital to see him. He says, no you must wait there for the Gao Brothers who were being dropped off at our place in Troy at 930pm - so I could meet them and get them checked into the Quality Inn immediately adjacent to where we live. And so I do. When they arrived, I greeted both Zhen and Qiang with a hug and it was wonderful to finally meet them in the flesh.
I returned to the hospital by 11pm. Jef has been placed in a room great! In the ICU???!
By now, with all the tests back, the finding was that Jef had broken his neck, the left C6 bone. I was told he should have been paralyzed or killed – or both. He was scheduled for surgery the following morning, Sept 12. He was given another option to remain bedridden in a brace for several months however.
He weighed it all and did not want the surgery. Bad juju about surgery in his family. He had never had any surgery nor anesthesia himself.
Doctors said he could wear a hard neck brace for the next 3 months and let it heal naturally. A great friend and supporter of Jef, mine, and MONA is a radiologist at the hospital network (Dr Stephan Loginsky) stopped by the hospital and went over everything with Jef. Then Jef and I stayed together until 3am when he banished me to carry on with the MONA plans for the Gao Brothers.
So the morning of the Gao Brothers first big event (Friday), I went to see Jef again at 8am to confirm he would not be having surgery, then next to salvage 26 of the 36 remaining bottles of wine from the car hulk at the impound, then to ferry the Gao Brothers and Elene to MONA’s Armada location to see the Brother's ‘Arresting Prostitute’ sculpture installed there. Then back to Detroit for the MONA fundraiser preview for the Gao Brothers (the fundraiser part is a whole other story).
The preview was fabulous. A big success.
In the middle of it, Jef’s son Nick shows up. He tells us, Jef is out in the car and can’t really move or see anyone. He needs his wallet which I have so he can show proof of ID at any pharmacy for the painkillers the hospital prescribed. He and his son had already broken into our home looking for it... (The whole time the Gao Brothers wanted to see Jef.)
Jef went home with his son to rest, and I concluded the preview event with an impromptu group hug and small speech. I got teary-eyed. It was all so surreal.
After the event a large group of us go out to dinner, including the radiologist and his wife and another collecting/supporter of MONA couple, to an authentic Chinese restaurant for dinner and then Elene and I arrive home around midnight.
Jef is flat on the couch in his neck brace and his son is with him. That evening, Jef tries to get off of the couch to go to the bathroom. Total no go. He is on his hands and knees for a good 30 minutes in pain. I don't know how, but he somehow got back on the couch where he would stay for the entire next week.
If nothing else, Jef was home and we were happy for that. I slept on the floor next to the couch.
We were scheduled for a follow-up appt with the orthopedic doctor the next Thursday, 9/18, in the morning.
My dad and Jef's sister Cindy came over to help with the transfer. We borrowed one of my mom's walker/wheelchairs to help. But Jef’s pain was so great it became clear we needed an ambulance and would be going back to the hospital.
X-rays would reveal that the broken bone had slipped increasing Jef's risk of partial or full paralysis. Jef was ready to sign up for the surgery before we even got back to the hospital. So we spent another day in the hallway of the ER and finally got a room.
Where we waited until Jef's surgery the following Monday, 9/23.
Jef and I joked a lot about how we’d often talked about getting away and never do. We joked that this was our getaway.
I spent the nights there, sleeping either on a chair or on the floor, and the nurses let me order whatever I wanted from "room service." We even had cable – which we never used.
Jef has a great and positive spirit. His family and friends rallied round us. Appearances, cards, messages, prayers.
Surgery went great and we have been home since Tuesday evening.
His daughters set up the GoFund Me for Jef. Thankfully.
I could tell you sooo much more.... It's been a trip for sure, but has strengthened us as a couple, me as an individual, and MONA as a force in the art community.
Happy to be in touch,
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