From Brain Injury to Outer Space
Jared Bailey navigates the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury with faith, family, hard work and patience.
If you see Jared Bailey, 25, with his family today, you’d see a loving family that supports each other but that isn’t afraid to have some fun and tell a joke or two at each other’s expense.
What led them to be so close may not be as obvious. Jared, his brother, Michael, his mom, Lynn, and his dad, Ronnie, have worked together the last three years to navigate the effects of Jared’s severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).
On September 10, 2017, Jared was returning home from church on his motorcycle. He was only five miles from his house when two cars suddenly cut in front of him, resulting in a crash. Jared was flown to Huntsville Hospital and immediately had surgery to mend a laceration on his spleen. He also had a punctured lung and broken bones throughout his body.
“The doctor made it clear that his body would heal,” Lynn says. “What we really needed to be concerned about was the damage to Jared’s brain.”
Jared sustained a diffuse axonal injury, and nobody knew how much he would recover. After 19 tense days at the hospital, Jared was stable enough to transfer to Shepherd Center for rehabilitation on September 29, 2017.
“I was overwhelmed when we got there,” Jared recalls. “It was like I was born again; everything was new. I had problems walking, and I didn’t know it was because of my brain injury at the time.”
Jared spent four weeks inpatient at the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program, followed by eight weeks at Shepherd Pathways for outpatient services. Lynn was able to live in an apartment in the Irene and George Woodruff Family Residence Center the entire time and stay by Jared’s side. Ronnie and Michael would drive from Athens, Alabama, to Atlanta, Georgia, every Thursday and stay through Sunday. Even though this was a major shift in their lives, the family was grateful Jared was alive.
“We celebrated the best Thanksgiving we’ve ever had in that apartment,” Lynn says. “We had a whole new level of gratitude for our lives. Every day was a miracle.”
To the Bailey family, the Shepherd Center team was like extended family.
“They were excellent,” Jared says. “From the nurses to the techs and therapists, to the people at the welcome desk – they were all so caring and genuine.”
While Jared received intensive rehabilitation, his family also faced challenges.
“The life we all had expected suddenly came to a stop, and we had a new normal we had to learn,” Lynn says. “There were no guidelines for the progress Jared would make, so we just had to live one day at a time.”
Jared was discharged from Shepherd Center on December 22, 2017. He still experiences effects from his TBI, including short-term memory issues and not being able to process information as quickly as he used to. On occasion, he loses his balance or has trouble walking in a straight line, but he doesn’t get discouraged. He wants other brain injury survivors to know what helped him pull through.
“Don’t be afraid to lean on your loved ones and ask for help when you need it,” Jared says. “With hard work and patience, you can do it.”
Jared has always had a passion for building and making. After leaving Shepherd, he decided to apply his passion to a career. He enrolled in Calhoun Community College as an aerospace technology major. On December 16, 2019, Jared received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Aerospace Technology. Now, he is an aerospace technician for an international supplier of products for the space industry.
“I get to build stuff that goes to space,” Jared claims proudly. “I feel like if I can get through a brain injury, I can do anything!”
Written by Damjana Alverson
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 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.