Jared Antle celebrates 20th birthday in Atlanta hospital, family continues to prepare for homecoming

Staff writer

Jared Antle celebrated a milestone last week: He turned 20 less than a year after he barely survived a hit-and-run in Harrisonburg.

With every milestone in Jared’s recovery from a traumatic brain injury, his parents Ed and Cathy Antle have been at his side. They’ve prepared their James City County home and themselves for Jared’s eventual homecoming from the Shepherd Center, a specialty brain and spinal injury hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.

“His birthday was very special, very encouraging,” Ed Antle said. “It wasn't like we were sad for what his birthday could have been like at all. It was more that it was a great day, and he did so well that day.”

At one point, Jared stood up from his wheelchair and receptionists at the front desk sang him “Happy Birthday” while he laughed, smiled and blew everyone kisses, Ed said.

That moment is in stark contrast to when Jared hits someone in confusion, Ed Antle said.

“I got smacked last night at bedtime,” Ed Antle said. “He doesn't like to get his meds. He doesn't like to get his blood pressure. He's just more aware of what's going on. You can't fool him. You can't distract him with one thing and get something else done.

“This is still an emotional roller coaster.”

Jared has recovered at the Shepherd Center since Sept. 24, 2018, and doctors continue to tell his parents that his road to recovery isn’t even close to over, Ed Antle said.

The center’s medical team had to change Jared’s medications after he started to show signs of an allergic reaction to his primary neurological medicine.

Jared spent about two weeks off the medicine that could tamp down misbehavior associated with his injuries, but doctors began to treat him with a new drug in the last week or so, and that has helped.

A recent MRI showed Jared’s brain is bruised on the frontal lobe — the part of the brain most associated with reward and motivation, attention, and short-term memory and planning.

Jared’s lead doctor, Dr. Andrew Dennison, told the family those bruises still have about 15 months to heal, Ed said.

With every day of intense therapy, Ed and Cathy Antle see progress in their youngest son, but they have anxieties about returning home after eight months in Atlanta.

The family has discussed expected difficulties of moving Jared home while also hoping for the best.

“It could be a hard transition, but it could also be a major step forward,” Ed Antle said. “Some brain injury patients do well when they get home. Being around familiar places can be good for recovery.”

Less than a minute later, Ed Antle’s tone changed: “During the day, we think, how could we do this at home?”

“We’re constantly thinking about how he’ll do at home and how we’ll care for him,” Ed Antle said. “Jared really needs his support network and he will benefit from this support network. I worry sometimes if people will be disappointed when he can only engage for a short period of time and then will need some quiet and some space.”

Jared could be discharged from the Shepherd Center as early as May 30 after the hospital extended his stay more than a dozen times.

In the coming days and weeks, two fundraisers are scheduled to benefit the family. There’s a dine out night at the NY Deli in Lightfoot from 5-10 p.m. Thursday, where half of the proceeds will go toward the bills the family has accrued since the hit-and-run. On June 8, there will be a cornhole tournament and silent auction at Billsburg Brewery at the James City County Marina to benefit Jared.

The Antle family continues to ask for the community’s prayers that Jared’s behavior will continue to improve.

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 srobertsjr@vagazette.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.

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