"Be Proud of Yourself."
Mom of former patient shares her experience coping with her son’s spinal cord injury.
By Cammie Weeks
Mother of former Shepherd Center patient, Jack Weeks
It’s a sunny morning here in Maine. Spring. New life is coming up to the birdfeeders, the creek is flowing peacefully and the sounds of my family asleep create a stillness.
It’s been nine months since Jack’s accident – the same amount of time it takes a baby to grow in your belly.
Life changed in an instant at 16 years old for him. For all of us.
Jack dove into the shallow ocean in Delaware on June 27, 2020, breaking his C-5 vertebrae and drowning. He was brought back to life on that beach by off-duty paramedics whom I’ll never get to thank because it all happened so fast. My first thought when I saw him was, “Thank gosh he is breathing.” It didn’t enter my mind that he might be paralyzed until I saw them putting him on the dune buggy. I saw his arm hanging down and tried to put it back up on his chest, but it fell again. What came next is why I still have panic attacks. It’s the shaking with fear and shock that is hard to explain. It’s like this uncontrollable fire that courses through your body and it doesn’t go away. It was a blur, but in slow motion.
Ambulance…Beebe Medical Center…x-ray C5 (what does that mean?)…airlifted in a glass bottom helicopter to Nemours in Wilmington…25 days in ICU…two surgeries to stabilize his neck…tracheostomy…waiting…air ambulance to Shepherd Center in Atlanta…HOPE.
I never really experienced anything like being in a hospital for more than a couple days when I had my babies. I can tell you that the people who took care of us at Nemours are why my faith in humanity was restored. I have never met more kind, intelligent and unconditionally loving people. When our journey took us to Shepherd Center, I realized that this is what I had heard of my whole life. I had found the pulse of people that were changing the world with love.
We were at Shepherd Center from July 21 to December 10 – just shy of five months. Shepherd was where we embraced Jack’s injury. We learned that it is OK to talk about the accident, it’s OK to be scared, it’s OK to lean on new friends, it’s OK to laugh, it’s OK to cry and it’s OK to heal.
My friend who I was put in touch with just days after the accident reminded me that what sticks out in her mind was that I said to her, “I feel like I was born to do this.”
It’s those moments of remembering how incredibly strong I am, how patient and giving I am, how much love I have inside my heart, that mean so much. The hope and empathy that has emerged from my being has shown me that I am a wonderful mother. I still struggle with not feeling good enough, but my kids are happy most days, and I lean on my incredible support system and I try to center my being.
This is what I’ve come to realize is what all of us go through from time to time.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Howl at the moon.
Lean on others.
Be proud of yourself.
Mostly though, love and make memories that will last a lifetime.
Happy Mother’s Day to all.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 935 inpatients, 541 day program patients and more than 7,300 outpatients each year.