GOWANDA - A year in length seems like a long time. For those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a year is not such a long period of time.
Dakota Jimerson, 19, suffered a TBI during a fall at home on April 20, 2011.
"I think some people think that a year has been a long time but when you talk to any of the doctors, therapists, a year is not that long a time," Lisa Reinard, Jimerson's mother, said.
Gowanda graduate Dakota Jimerson suffered a traumatic brain injury on April 20, 2011. He is still recovering at Erie County Medical Center but his family hopes to bring him home. Pictured with Dakota is his mother, Lisa Reinard.
Since the injury, Jimerson has been at Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) where doctors did not believe he was going live. Once Jimerson defeated those odds, doctors thought he would be permanently brain damaged and in a coma. Once again, Jimerson defied and beat those odds.
"He's progressing very well," Reinard said.
Currently, Jimerson has been taken off his trach and is breathing on his own but still has a feeding tube. He also has had an additional shunt placed into his brain to help drain the fluid. The part of the brain which was affected was the pituitary gland so Jimerson has had problems controlling his body temperature and maintaining fluids controlled by the gland. These problems have been getting better, Reinard said.
"He's gotten stronger physically," Reinard said. "He keeps moving forward. It's little baby steps but he keeps moving forward."
Jimerson is currently in the skilled nursing facility at ECMC which is similar to a nursing home. Each day Jimerson is getting stronger and is making progress. Currently, he is starting to talk and move more. While Jimerson does not have full speech capabilities, he is trying to talk.
"He'll look at you like he's trying to talk but it just comes out as sounds," Reinard said.
Jimerson's family is currently working with an organization called Headway to bring Jimerson home. Reinard while working with Headway, has applied for a TBI waiver.
"If you're accepted, you get these monies so instead of the state paying for Dakota to be in a nursing home like he is now, they'll help us so we can bring him home," Reinard said.
This organization will get in contact with local organizations around Gowanda to help Reinard get the necessary supplies needed so Jimerson may be brought home from the hospital.
"It's real important to bring him home," Reinard said.
While he is at ECMC, Jimerson does not receive any occupational, physical or speech therapy. The TBI waiver will help find funding for these therapies so Jimerson can continue to get stronger. Reinard also wants to bring Jimerson home so he can be closer to his friends and family. Jimerson's friends and family visit him at ECMC but it would be easier for visitors if he was at home, Reinard said.
A benefit was held in August for the family and that money raised will help purchase a wheelchair van for Jimerson as he will be coming home in a wheelchair. In order to get Jimerson home, Reinard said a hospital bed, a lift and a new tub will also be needed before he comes home.
"We're just waiting to bring him home," Reinard said.
While at ECMC, Reinard and Jimerson have developed relationships with the staff of the hospital. Jimerson's neurosurgeon, Dr. Bennett has been wonderful and helping out with Jimerson, Reinard said. He was the one that took the breathing tube out of Jimerson. While Jimerson is making progress, it has been a journey.
"It just takes time, a lot of time. A lot of work. A lot of therapy but he can just keep progressing," Reinard said.
Reinard also said many of her frustrations have been through trying to get her son care. She spoke of the struggles she had to try to get an infected toe nail removed.
"Once you get in the hospital system, it is so frustrating to be a parent and go through this. The state of our managed health care in the U.S. is horrible. You don't know it until you get into the system," Reinard said. "I have to fight tooth and nail to get anything."
Since Jimerson is so young, it is beneficial to his recovery. His brain is still growing and recovering at the same time. His left side of the brain was damaged therefore the right side of his body is affected. Reinard would like to spread the message to parents to protect children's brains.
"Please make your children aware of what can happen and to protect their brain. Teach them to wear their helmets when riding or skating. Please make sure they wear their seatbelts, not only in the front seat but also in the back," Reinard said.
Reinard and Jimerson's father, Kevin Jimerson, would like to thank the community for their support.
"We want to thank the community, Gowanda schools, friends and family for all the love, support, prayers and donations our family has received over the past year, especially to all the wonderful people who donated, helped or just attended Dakota's benefit last August," Reinard said.
Reinard hopes Dakota will be home within the next two months.
"He's my hero. He never quits. He keeps fighting," Reinard said. "I wish it could be faster but that's just how it heals. Brain injuries take such a long time."
A Facebook page called "Dakota's Prayer" has been created by Jimerson's cousin. Reinard posts updates to how Jimerson is doing.
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