Because James is the quiet type, never to want the focus on himself, I won't be giving many details. All you really need to know is that for two weeks, our family held our breath and prayed, like never before. I walked and worked in a haze, with moments of emotional spurts in between. His parents were the cornerstone of positivity and I don't know how they managed.
Jessica, his older sister, is in the picture above. I think the entire family really leaned on her despite her age. She remained so positive and really connected with the community. She created a facebook page just for the cause and spoke at his vigil. She kept everyone updated and spread cheer when you didn't think you could handle it. I think we were all in awe of the woman she had become.
Because the hospital was so far away and my work schedule wasn't very flexible, I saw James in the hospital about 2 times. As a nurse, knowing what every tube, monitor, and number was did me no good. I didn't want to know. I just wanted him to be okay and the doctors couldn't guarantee such a thing. It was frightening and humbling to be on the other side, a side I never imagined myself on.
My hometown is Front Royal, Virginia. If you know anything about the small town, it has quite a backwoods/redneck reputation. People poke fun when they know you're from there and I was never very proud of my little town roots. I learned a lot in those two weeks. Like the fact that this small town is made of amazing people, willing to come together and help out in any way. James' family received thousands in donations, from people who he had never met. Haircuts, dinners, and vigils were held in his honor. Songs were created. Arm bands that read "metro-metro" [his code name used during his air flight] spread through the town along with camouflage ribbons.
The town I had been formerly embarrassed of now had me bursting with pride. The way people came together is beyond me and my family and I are still so grateful to everyone who prayed, donated, baked, etc.
James woke from his medically induced coma about two weeks in. He didn't remember the accident or a few months leading up to it, but everything else was intact. There was a whirlwind of physical, speech, and occupational therapy which continued once he was home. It seemed in no time that he was walking around with his little neck brace on. Once he was awake, his recovery was so fast. It was mind blowing to see our prayers answered and walking around.
A few months after his recovery, James was honored at the local high school for being a hero. It was cute to see him lined up there, towering over all the other kids. But it was great to see how far he had come. We had a surprise trip from the first responders who made the very important decision to medevac him.
|iphone pictures: me & James|
I am so honored to be James' aunt and I will never take my family for granted again. We don't always get along but we have each other. And I don't think you could ask for a better gift. Here's to a wonderful new year full of opportunities and chances to say "I love you" more often!