On Thursday August 26th 2010, Jim was on a family vacation in Bethany Beach, DE and dove into a wave. A normal, everyday, small Delaware shore wave. Our best guess is that the force of that wave caused him to hit his head on the ocean floor, and the resulting impact fractured a vertebrae in his neck (C3).
His wife Andi somehow noticed he didn't surface, was able to find him in the water and drag him to shore. The lifeguards met her on the beach, immediately began CPR and kept at it until an ambulance arrived. Those minutes were the most precarious of the journey thus far, and the words "we have a faint pulse" meant he had cleared hurdle number one.
They stabilized him in the ambulance and the staff members at Beebee hospital were phenomenal in getting him immediate help and his family some immediate answers. A CAT scan showed normal brain function. Jim spent a long time in the water and the EMTs spent a long time performing CPR before getting a pulse, so that word "normal" has never sounded more beautiful, and meant that he had cleared hurdle number two.
He was air-lifted to Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia where he underwent an 8 hour surgery on Friday. The doctors there said this surgery is a "routine" one for them - again I've never been more in love with a word...routine, normal...bring us more of those. For now, he cannot breathe on his own, and has no feeling or movement from the neck down which is expected with a high level injury like his. The surgery indicated no severing or lacerations to the spinal cord, but there was extensive crushing, swelling and bruising, and the duration and severity of his paralysis is unknown.
The surgery went well; he is regulating his blood pressure and body temperature well, and we are celebrating these small victories. He is on a ventilator and cannot speak or breathe on his own, but he is alert and responsive - nods, shakes his head and sometimes grimaces or rolls his eyes - amazing what you can communicate without words.
These are all good, good things, and now his family - his wife Andi, their children Addison, and Olivia, Jim's brother Jeremy, Jim's sister Jill and her husband Doug, Andi's parents Ken and Phyllis Stine and all of their extended family and friends begin the long, difficult process of "wait and see". It is a miracle that he is alive, and that miracle is not lost on us. We are still deep in the woods, but our friend is a fighter, so let's help him with our prayers, hope, love and support. Send as many as you can Jim's way.
He will remain here for approximately two weeks and then move to a semi-acute facility to begin the next phase of this difficult journey. Navigating the decisions and obstacles to come is daunting at best, so we're focusing on the here and now. There is hope here right now, and we'll cling to it for all we're worth and take each step as it comes. Thank you for walking and hoping with us.