The last 10 days have been a blur, and it’s been hard to keep up with everything going on. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has called, texted, emailed, and otherwise reached out to us. Even if we haven’t replied, please know we appreciate your thoughts, prayers, good vibes, and positive energy. It’s clear that Jesse has so many friends who care about him and he is definitely feeling the love coming his way.
Jesse’s crash happened around 7am mountain time on Tuesday, August 25th, and I learned of it about 2 hours later via an Instagram message from the son of the flight instructor he trained with in Florida, who was informed by the plane’s previous owner that the emergency transponder had been activated. This was followed by frantic phone calls to Jesse’s phone (unanswered) and Stefan’s phone, answered by a nurse at Memorial Hospital of Carbon County in Wyoming who informed me that Jesse and Stefan were being flown to UC Health Medical Center of the Rockies and Corey was already at the hospital in Casper, Wyoming. I was able to get myself off Orcas on a charter flight to SeaTac Tuesday afternoon and then arrived in Denver around 11pm that night, where I met Stefan’s wife Jenny at the airport. By this time, Jesse was in surgery to repair a tear in his aorta that needed to be addressed before his spinal injury.
I was able to see him for a few hours on Wednesday morning, and even while still intubated following surgery, he was able to communicate with me enough through hand gestures and written notes to tell me to take off my mask and SMILE and that he was going to be okay. Shortly after I left to pick up his mom Sara at the airport, he went back in for a second surgery to stabilize and decompress his spine.
Sara visited on Thursday (due to COVID, the hospital’s policy was initially one visitor per patient per day), and by later in the day, Jesse was able to have the breathing tube removed. Medication and the lingering effects of a concussion kept him pretty loopy for most of the day, but he improved quickly through the afternoon and evening. Stefan went in for surgery on his spine Thursday afternoon.
By Friday morning, Jesse was sounding like himself and Stefan was also awake after his surgery, so Jenny and I faced the most difficult moment of this entire ordeal, which was to tell Jesse and Stefan about Corey. The grief of his loss is something that will take a long time for all of us to process. We’ve shared many tears and hugs, and the ICU staff was kind enough to bend the visitor policies and allow Stefan and Jenny to visit Jesse and me in his room, and we were all able to talk to Corey’s dad on the phone for a bit.
The rest of the days since then are somewhat muddled now, but Stefan was released from the hospital on Sunday, August 30th. Jesse was moved to the step-down ICU on Tuesday, and then on Thursday evening, he moved upstairs to the main floor, which meant finally disconnecting from all the monitors and other wires. All of the doctors and nurses (who have without fail been wonderful!) are so impressed with the progress he’s made in a short period of time.
Yesterday afternoon we also got some GREAT news, which is that Craig Hospital, a world-renowned spinal cord injury rehab hospital will have a bed for Jesse THIS WEEK on Tuesday the 8th. We originally expected him to transfer to Craig on the 15th or 16th, but he is VERY ready to be out of the hospital and motivated to start his rehab, so this was huge news.
Stefan had a follow-up appointment with his doctors here yesterday and the hospital again made it possible for us all to visit before Stefan and Jenny departed for home this morning. I drove them to the airport, along with Sara, so that she could return to New Hampshire for a bit. I’ll be here in Colorado with Jesse until he’s settled in at Craig, and then I’ll likely make a short trip back to Orcas to get some things organized before returning to Colorado.