Sunday, March 6, 2016.
Jackson Koch, 14, along with friends Levi May and Matt Gill, are taking turns on a longboard on a warm, sunny day. Whenever the boys are together, they typically ride.
He calmly lays down the longboard at the top of the hill. Placing one foot on the bamboo covered board, he uses his other foot to push off. He adds his second foot to the board and sails down the street.
The red wheels of the longboard spin, accelerating with each rotation. The soft whistle of the wind is a sound he has become quite familiar with.
At the bottom of the hill, Jackson decides to turn into the small parking lot of the neighborhood park. Jackson firmly leans his chest back to turn the board into the lot. He doesn’t notice the gravel until the moment he enters the lot.
One of the front wheels runs straight into a rock, abruptly throwing Jackson off the board.
His head slams into the rugged terrain.
A blast of unbearable pain shoots up through his upper neck to his skull.
The back of Jackson’s head throbs. His body lays lifeless on the gravel parking lot. The excruciating pain worsens with each passing second.
His vision blurry, all he can see are people running around. Low murmurs are heard, yet he can’t make any words out.
Standing is a challenge. Jackson lifts his body halfway up … but falls face-first, back on the hot, hard cement.
When Jackson opens his bruised, blue eyes, he sees a field of green around him. Levi and Matt have carried him over to the grass, to prevent him from hitting his head again.
“He looked like he had no clue where he was. All he could say was ‘My head hurts,” Matt recalls.
They are able to find Jackson’s cell phone in the pocket of his black skater pants. They dial his mother, Jessica Koch, who is at home.
Both Jessica and her husband, Jason, rush to the scene.
Attempting to keep him conscious, Jackson’s mom kneels near him and tries to talk to him. His dad calls the ambulance.
“We had no idea how bad it really was. We thought he had a concussion,” Jessica says.
The ambulance pulls up to the scene six minutes after the phone call. Within three minutes, Jackson is on his way to the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
While in the ambulance with his dad by his side, Jackson falls into a deep slumber.
After what seems like an eternity for his parents, the ambulance arrives at the hospital.
Jackson’s state leaves his parents only two choices: surgery or to let him go peacefully. His parents choose surgery without a moment’s hesitation.
“In the moment, we didn’t see it as a true choice. Even with the low probability that he would live through the surgery, we knew it was our only choice,” Jessica says.
Jackson’s parents watch their unconscious son being wheeled away. Their hearts sink. This is far more serious than they initially thought.
Jackson’s traumatic brain injury caused him to suffer a cracked skull, a broken neck, and paralyzation from the neck down. Due to the intense brain swelling, a part of Jackson’s skull must be removed. All trust is put into the neurologist’s hands.
“I can’t begin to tell you how much this hurts and how many tears I’ve cried,” Jessica says. “But I can tell you we are strong and faithful and hopeful like never before.”
After about two hours, his parents, along with both of Jackson’s grandparents, watch as the surgeon rounds the corner. As the doctor makes his way over to the middle of the waiting room, all Jason and Jessica can do is hope good news is coming their way.
“I am so sorry to say this, but he most likely will not make it. He has a 20 percent chance of survival.”
Jessica’s knees collapse beneath her as she helplessly falls to the ground. There is nothing she can do but let the tears come.
For eleven excruciating days, Jackson is on life support.
When it comes to brain injuries, there is a scale ranging from one to ten which doctors use to determine the seriousness of the injury. Ten is a minor concussion, and one is no longer alive.
Three and below is brain dead.
Jackson scales at a four.
Seven days after the surgery, it was now up to him to wake up from the coma.
For Jackson’s family, the long, painful minutes turn into hours, and the hours into days. The endless thoughts and prayers from friends and family help tremendously, but their son is still barely hanging on to his life.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, this horrific situation the Koch’s have been put through is not unusual. More than 66,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for skateboarding-related injuries.
About a week after the accident, people are allowed to come and see him.
“You could barely see his face because he had all these tubes hooked up to him. He was also super skinny,” Matt says.
While in the coma, Jackson comes down with pneumonia. This is common with little movement.
Jackson loses a total of thirty pounds.
The once fit, muscular boy now lies cold in a hospital bed.
Each day, however, his condition begins to improve. He is fighting to come back to his family. His movement begins to slowly increase and he shows some response to voices.
“Jackson is making baby steps of progress with every passing hour… They honestly feel like mini miracles,” Jessica says.
Jackson is defying the odds.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016.
Jason, Jessica, and Nathan, Jackson’s 11-year old brother, watch a miracle unfold before their eyes.
Jackson wakes up.
“We believe with everything in our heart that Jesus has his healing touch on him,” Jessica says.
Even though Jackson has completely overcome the near impossible, it is unknown how much he will be able to do and what limitations he may have for the rest of his life.
On March 18, only thirteen days after the accident, Jackson is transported from the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center to the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln.
For five weeks, Jackson lives at Madonna and works to get better. He is required to go through extensive physical and occupational therapy.
Jackson’s condition is progressing, but nothing at Madonna is easy for Jackson.
“I was so done and ready to go home and wanted it be over, but I was just starting,” Jackson says.
When Jackson first enters Madonna, he has to train his body how to eat and drink again. He blends everything he eats, and drink Jell-O-like, thickened water.
His therapy consists of tying his shoes, standing on his own, and even learning how to walk again. Everything he once mastered became the hardest part of the day.
“I was like a newborn child,” Jackson says.
On his second day at Madonna, Jackson takes his first steps. When he begins walking again, he needs a walker like an elderly man. He has a gait belt around his waist so a nurse can hold it and help him not fall.
In addition, Jackson is put through difficult therapy to learn how to speak and form his words.
“I didn’t know how to speak,” Jackson explains. “I knew what to say, but I couldn’t say it. It didn’t sound right.”
For Jackson, the days seem endless. His therapy is exhausting, he always has a headache, and there is never a moment when people were not watching and evaluating him.
All he wants to do is be at home.
Not long after the accident, Jessica makes a Facebook page, “Prayer Warriors for Jackson Koch,” to spread awareness of the accident.
She continually posts updates about Jackson. People have nothing but loving and encouraging things to say, such as “You have a whole army of people praying for you!”
In total, 3,433 people like the page.
The United States Air Force Band even send a video to Jackson that his mom later put on Facebook. The men and women tell him they are thinking about him and to “keep fighting.”
It has always been Jackson’s dream to go into the military.
“It was so awesome! To be honest, it meant so much to me,” Jackson says.
In addition to the Facebook page, Jackson’s family and friends decide to make T-shirts and bracelets to sell. The shirts were royal blue and said “Hope for Jackson” on the front. The T-shirts were sold at Millard West High School and through any family members or friends.
Thursday, April 7, 2016.
Jackson is released from Madonna.
One week after being released, Jackson returns to school for the first time. He was exempt for most of his work, so he was able to finish out his freshman year. However, he does have to retake a math class because he missed so much.
Jackson’s final step of recovery takes place on June 9th, 2016. In this last step, the neurosurgeon will re-attach Jackson’s left bone flap to his skull.
The surgery goes smoothly and Jackson is able to go home three days later.
Jackson is still longboarding today.
“My accident gave me power that I can get through anything. I’m not scared at all,” Jackson believes.
The Koch’s will be forever grateful for all the prayers and people who supported them throughout this experience.
“God was with me,” Jackson says. “He saved me.”