On April 7, 2008, Jake took a header off his skateboard. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. While being rushed to the Mary Greeley Medical Center Emergency Department in Ames, Iowa, Jake slipped into a coma, a condition he remained in for five weeks in spite of immediate surgery to remove the growing clot from his brain.
Recalls his parents, Tim and Vicki Rotz, “We were told that, because of the damage his brain had sustained, Jake would never walk, talk or communicate with us again.”
But Jake had other plans. At 22, he’s determined to learn how to be Jake all over again.
Awake but using a respirator and tracheotomy tube to breath, Jake was transferred to Bethesda Rehabilitation Hospital in St. Paul, Minn., to be closer to his parents’ home in Buffalo, Minn. Two months later, he entered Courage Center’s Transitional Rehabilitation Program.
“I worked hard there,” Jake says, his blue eyes bright with life. “I had to start from nothing: I couldn’t talk, walk, dress myself – nothing. So, even though I had a long-term goal of getting back to my old self – returning to school, skating – I decided to take one day at a time.”
At Courage Center, those days included occupational and physical therapies, speech and cognitive therapies, and pool exercise. All were designed to integrate the healing of Jake’s brain with his body.
Explains Carmel Rehnelt, one of Jake’s occupational therapists at Courage Center: “For clients like Jake who have serious brain injuries with profound changes in their bodies and awareness of themselves, mind-body therapy takes a holistic approach. Clients are encouraged to connect their mind and body throughout the rehab process and ‘mentally direct’ their healing. Therapists trained in this therapy read the cues and actions of their clients, listening to both what is said and not said, and take client-centered treatment to a whole new level.”
“The results are remarkable,” beams Jake’s mom, Vicki. “Jake is our miracle son.”
These days, Jake lives with his parents, returning to Courage Center five days a week to continue his rehab therapies. He speaks well, but slowly: his cognitive loss still interrupts his ability to process information and find the right words. And, on the one-year anniversary of his accident, this former hockey player laced up his skates with his dad and hit the ice for a trial spin.
Hitting his “fast-forward” button, Jake sees himself five years from now sitting at a desk employing his engineering degree in an interesting job. “I plan to return to college, get my degree, and find a good job,” he says. “The people at Courage Center are helping me do that.”