Jared Antle says first words since emerging, discharge date pushed back

Staff writer

From walking to talking, Jared Antle continues to take his recovery day by day.

Antle suffered a traumatic brain injury in Harrisonburg in August when he was hit by a motorist who then drove off.

On Jan. 24, 19-year-old Jared uttered his first word since the Aug. 24 crash, according to his father Ed Antle. Jared said “yeah.”

“He has said ‘ I, I'm, tired,’ Cath (Jared’s mother) said he dropped the f-bomb a couple of times, ‘no,’ and ‘yeah’,” Ed Antle said.

Jared’s words have all come in context, according to his father. His mother would ask him if he was done with his supper and he’d respond “yeah.”

Jared participates in rigorous speech therapy in his current home, the Shepherd Center, a hospital in Atlanta, Ga., that deals strictly with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries.

As the Lafayette High School graduate continues to make progress, including walking without assistance from hospital staffers, he has had his discharge date from the hospital pushed back again and again. On Wednesday, doctors moved his discharge date from Feb. 7 to Feb. 21.

But even as Jared progresses, he and his family face new roadblocks and challenges, from sleeping well to Jared’s recent penchant to be upset with the changes in his life.

“It's easy to gloss over the difficulty of this stage. Looking at the time, this is a difficult stage,” Ed Antle said. “Last night, we were up until 2 a.m. and he was wide awake and couldn't turn it off. He was deliriously exhausted.”

There’s a chance Jared could get further extensions to his stay at the Shepherd Center and if he can progress enough, he may be eligible for a “pathways program” to help him recover even more.

"These are life-changing things because (they) determine how he's going to get out of bed when he gets home," Ed Antle said. "Being able to transfer to a vehicle will mean he doesn't need a wheelchair van.”

Jared’s progress since his injury

On Aug. 24, just two days after his mother dropped him off for his sophomore year at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, a Harrisonburg man allegedly hit Jared with an SUV and fled the crash.

Jared was taken to Sentara RMH Hospital in Harrisonburg before he was flown to the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. He sustained a traumatic brain injury on both sides of his head and a collapsed lung, among other injuries.

Four weeks later, he was flown to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for specialty care. When he arrived, he was placed in the intensive care unit.

On Dec. 14, Jared’s primary physician Andrew Dennison said he thought Jared had emerged into consciousness.

Emergence is a transient term to describe the process of a person going from a coma, to a vegetative state to semi-consciousness and finally to lucid consciousness, Jared’s speech-language pathologist Alexes Venuti said.

Functional object use or functional communication, such as throwing a ball or answering yes or no questions, are criteria the hospital uses to determine whether or not a patient has emerged.

In the following month, Jared took his first car ride, and he’s able to get out of bed with a lot less help. He has even played air hockey, Antle said. While he mostly just hits the puck or grabs onto it with his fingers, Jared has volleyed — a significant development in his use of both fine motor skills and his ability to anticipate the path of moving objects.

“These are big lifestyle changes for him,” Antle said. “We saw them coming but it's a difference because now he's doing it.”

While the family takes things in stride, they ask for the community to pray for them and for Jared to remain calm and focused on rehabilitation. When Jared is calm, he makes breakthroughs.

How to help

To donate money toward Antle’s recovery, visit bit.ly/helpjared.

Read the Antle family’s online journal entries at: bit.ly/AntleJournal.

Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at srobertsjr@vagazette.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.

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