Help Us Help Jakob Relearn to Walk

On December 5, our 34 year old son Jakob became paralyzed from the waist down over a period of a few hours. He was first taken by ambulance to Martha's Vineyard Hospital, whose staff made the decision to send him to Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital.  In Boston the paralysis moved up to Jakob's chest and he was placed on oxygen.

 After a very tense week involving many tests and consultation with at least a dozen experts, the probable cause was determined to be compression of the spinal cord due to stenosis and ruptured disks in Jakob's mid-back. Spinal fusion surgery was performed on December 13, and a few days later Jakob was transferred to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, in Charlestown (Boston).  As of February 15, he is still a patient there.

When Jakob arrived at Spaulding a few days after surgery his left leg was paralyzed. He could not move it and had no sensation. His right leg was a bit more functional; he could wiggle his toes and the leg was a bit sensitive to touch.

At Spaulding Jakob has received daily intensive physical therapy and occupational therapy. There have been two main points of focus: (1) mastering a wide variety of physical and life skills necessary for people who cannot walk, (2) learning how to walk again.

Thanks to his indomitable spirit, hard work, and the incredible team at Spaulding, Jakob can now, without assistance, put on his leg braces, dress himself, move to and from a wheelchair without assistance. He requires help for some other aspects of daily life.

He has also made great progress in re-learning to walk. On February 8th he walked 100 feet, in three stages, using a walker but without any other assistance. On February 15 he walked 150 feet with the walker. This is very exciting. But although he has made great strides (figuratively and literally!) he has a long way to go. He will rely on the wheelchair for the foreseeable future.

Jakob will be leaving Spaulding soon; it's not clear yet where his next stop will be -- most likely it will be at a "step-down" facility that offers in-patient physical and occupational therapy, but without the intensive medical care that Spaulding offers. We don't know what the future holds for Jakob in terms of how much of his former mobility he will be able to recover, or how long it will take. All we can say is that he is working hard, is full of courage, and is making steady progress. And that we are going to do whatever we can to assist him.

Even before this event, Jakob had several disabilities and challenges. He was living in a group home here on Martha's Vineyard. Dealing with these challenges limited some of his options, but until December 7 he was working several days/week at the War-Mart in Falmouth, to which he commuted by bus and ferry. 

Jakob's father John has spent about 3/4 of the time since the onset of Jakob's paralysis being with Jake in Boston. He was on the same ferry that took Jakob to Boston, and was with him pretty much around the clock for the first 10 days or so. He has been Jakob's main advocate, consultant, and companion. John has also been trained at Spaulding to be a personal care assistant and physical therapy coach for Jakob.

Betty has visited several times as well, as her schedule allowed. At first John (and Betty) stayed in a Bed & Breakfast in Cambridge, but in late December a friend offered use of a guest room in Boston.

These circumstances have put quite a financial strain on us. In the first place, John has not had any income since this happened. There have been living expenses and travel expenses, and expenses for lodging -- mostly for John, but for Betty as well. We have fallen seriously behind on our bills.

Wherever Jake winds up next, we expect that John will spend most of his time nearby, to help Jakob with personal care and to continue to assist him with his physical recovery. Even if Jakob returns soon to Martha's Vineyard, we expect that John will devote a good portion of his time to these activities, indefinitely. It may be a while before John can go back to work. But our priority remains to do whatever it takes to help get Jakob back on his feet.

In additional to the expenses above, we also plan to make some modest improvements to our home so that Jakob can comfortably visit us. 

We would therefore asking our friends for financial support to get us through this challenge.
  • Elizabeth Hull 
    • $35 
    • 43 mos
  • Adriana Bate 
    • $50 
    • 43 mos
  • Ande Flavelle 
    • $100 
    • 43 mos
  • Ruby White 
    • $500 
    • 47 mos
  • Sarah Mayhew 
    • $25 
    • 48 mos
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John Sundman 
Tisbury, MA