It doesn’t look like Jared Antle will leave Atlanta anytime soon.
The Antle family and their insurance company representatives spoke on a conference call Thursday afternoon to discuss Jared’s next steps as he looks to recover from a traumatic brain injury, according to Jared’s father Ed Antle.
In August, the 19-year-old was critically injured in a hit-and-run in Harrisonburg. During the intervening months, most of his recovery has occurred at the Shepherd Center, a specialty brain and spinal injury hospital in Atlanta, Ga.
Jared’s family has had numerous meetings with hospital administrators and insurers, as the hospital has wanted to discharge him about 10 times since his arrival in September, Ed Antle said. However, things took a turn Thursday.
Jared’s insurer has told the family they think the Shepherd Center remains the best fit for his recovery, Jared’s mother Cathy Antle said.
“We had no idea that we'd be in Atlanta for this long,” Ed Antle said Friday. “It probably would have seemed scary. I say two months (more in Atlanta), but it could be longer than that. That's the biggest thing that's been in limbo. That's the biggest thing that's been unpredictable, where he's going to be.”
Doctors and therapists said Jared has progressed to the next stage of his recovery.
The hospital staff use a cognitive recovery rubric that highlights deficiencies in a patient’s recovery. Jared has had fewer cognitive deficiencies and his attitude has become more like the teenager he was before the crash: happy, smiling and laughing.
“He's become more cooperative and more able to imitate Alexes (Venuti, a speech-language pathologist) in speech,” Ed Antle said. “These are major things. We are out of the most combative stage (of Jared’s recovery).”
Jared remembers people’s name. He knows when it’s his turn to speak. He talks to people on the phone, even if his responses are limited at the moment. Things are looking up, Ed Antle said.
“He can interact with them on the phone,” Ed Antle said. “He doesn't have a phone conversation with them. He laughs. He appropriately goes back and forth. That volley back and forth is a great development.”
To be sure, the family has hard times. Mostly around bedtime, Jared can become agitated.
“He's past the point where behavior is limiting him in therapy,” Ed Antle said. “Behavior is still an issue. We have some difficult moments, it's just that they're much rarer than they were.”
Jared’s vocabulary continues to expand — the family no longer keeps track of how many words Jared says. They now pay more attention to the length of the phrases and whether Jared uses them correctly.
Throughout Jared’s time in hospitals, from Atlanta to Charlottesville, his family has been with him at every step.
On Friday, Jared’s brothers Jeremiah and Andy Antle spent time with Jared and kept their mother company.
“Mom’s not alone,” Ed Antle said. “When you have five kids, there’s lots of chaos in the house, but there’s tons of support when push comes to shove.”
Some prayers have come true, Ed Antle said. Jared’s continued progress has put him back in the running to enter a program at the Shepherd Center that would help him learn to live on his own again.
“We think that Shepherd is the best place for him to be right now,” Ed Antle said.
However, Jared’s status at the hospital is tentative, he said. They’re taking everything a week at a time until there’s more certainty in Atlanta.
“We were praying for a solution on where he's going to be,” Ed Antle said.
The family continues to solicit prayers for just that.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.