With crooked letters, Jared Antle scribbled his name for the first time since he suffered a traumatic brain injury in an August hit-and-run in Harrisonburg.
Day by day Jared has recovered slowly, with his family by his side prodding him along at every step, his father Ed Antle said.
In therapy with his speech-language pathologist Alexes Venuti on Monday, Jared was able to write his first name without help, Ed Antle said.
Jared participates in rigorous speech therapy with Venuti in his current home, the Shepherd Center, a hospital in Atlanta, Ga., that deals strictly with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries.
Just a month ago, the 19-year-old uttered his first word since the Aug. 24 hit-and-run, according to Ed Antle. Jared said “yeah.”
In the past three weeks, the family has seen a marked swing in Jared’s demeanor. From intense staring to wide smiles, from frustration to laughter, rays of their “Mr. Sunshine” sneak through more often now, Ed Antle said.
About a week ago, walking with Jared in the lead, his father loosely held on to his son as a backstop in case Jared lost his footing, Ed Antle said.
However, it can be too easy to talk about the good, Ed Antle said. The road ahead is full of challenges for Jared and his family.
The family’s home in James City County is being remodeled for Jared’s eventual return. Jared’s needs have become the family’s needs, as their bathroom has been demolished and construction of a more accessible bathroom is ongoing.
While Jared is in therapy in Atlanta, his father has traveled across the southeastern United States to find his son an inpatient neurological rehabilitation center.
On Monday, Ed Antle traveled to Sarasota, Fla., to visit one center after he’d already visited centers in Creedmoor, N.C., and Blacksburg. Representatives from the Sarasota and Creedmoor centers visited Jared in Atlanta, too.
After the rehab center, Jared will return home, Ed Antle said. Little changes are needed -- such as the steps to the front door will be replaced with a wheelchair ramp. The bathroom will need to be more accessible for bathing, among other changes.
The remodeling will take time, and the family has opted to get it started now rather than being caught flat-footed.
Thankfully, the Shepherd Center has given Jared more time in Atlanta with repeated extensions of his discharge date, Ed Antle said. Jared’s discharge is now set for March 7.
What comes after the Shepherd Center is still up in the air, but Ed Antle said there’s a good chance it will cost the Antle family out of pocket.
“The next step is likely not going to be paid for by insurance,” he said. “It's really amazing that insurance does not pay for what comes after Shepherd.”
The family’s support network has stepped in with fundraising campaigns, but there’s always the question of whether it will be enough, Ed Antle said.
Ed Antle and Jared’s mother Cathy want to see Jared spend a significant amount of time at a residential rehab center before he returns to Williamsburg and receives outpatient therapy. Ed Antle said they hope Jared will spend at least two months at the Florida or North Carolina center.
“One of our goals is to avoid the 90 percent loss of therapy that he will experience if we go home,” he said. “These facilities will both deal with the behavior and also perform rigorous therapy.”
They hope the centers will analyze Jared’s behavior to find out what can distract him from his therapy. The centers will also determine the healthiest mix of medications for Jared so that he can continue to make progress.
“One of their main goals is to overcome some of his behavior, because they (the Shepherd Center) feel his behavior is impeding his progress,” Ed said.
The family continues to ask for prayers — specifically that Jared will sleep well, stay focused and continue his march toward recovery.
How to help
To donate money toward Jared 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 email@example.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.