Jack Rieger was treated in the TIRR Memorial Hermann Disorders of Consciousness Program. His family has shared the following about Jack.
My son, Jack, is 26 years old. I had told Jack his whole life that if I could order up a son, he would be whom I ordered. He was smart, emotionally intelligent and so funny. Jack was living in Los Angeles and working in sports journalism at Fox Sports. Our lives changed on October 2, 2018. Jack is a type 1 diabetic and experienced a low blood sugar episode at work. They told us he fell 5 stories. After speaking to the operating room nurse on the phone, Bob and I left Las Vegas and drove straight to UCLA. I knew Jack’s injuries were severe, and the drive was agonizing. I had 4.5 hours to search online every possible negative scenario. The nurse had explained they were performing a craniectomy. Once there, we learned he also had broken his right femur and fractured his forehead and right orbital bone. Entering his room in the neuro ICU took my breath away and I felt physically ill. He was hooked up to so many machines. I have never been so scared.
We spent 6 weeks at UCLA with Jack in Intensive Care. His neurologist kept telling us Jack would survive, and he believed he would start responding. He warned us there most likely would be serious brain damage, and we should expect a long recovery. Our family was with Jack every single day. We never left him alone. I left my job as a teacher in Las Vegas and stayed in Los Angeles . We read to him, talked to him, played music, prayed and cried. After 6 weeks, Jack still hadn’t responded to commands such as “stick out your tongue” and “squeeze my hand”. It was agonizing to watch. We had to choose a skilled nursing facility when it became apparent he wasn’t “awake”.
Our time was up at the skilled nursing facility, and we were really lost. We didn’t know where to turn. Some of the biggest rehabilitation hospitals in the country refused to take him; they didn’t think he could participate in 6 hours of physical therapy. We were turned away by even the most disgusting nursing homes. I didn’t know the first thing about bringing Jack home, but I knew that is what we would eventually do. A friend shared an article with me about a policeman with a brain injury that was a patient at TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston. I was halfway through the article when I knew I had to call Dr. Kothari and Dr. O’Brien at TIRR Memorial Hermann. The Disorders of Consciousness program described everything I was feeling. I honestly felt hopeful for the first time in our 9-month journey. The doctors did not promise me anything; they explained that if we came to Houston, they may determine that Jack wouldn’t progress. But they were willing to meet us, evaluate Jack and offer some hope.
When we arrived in Houston, Jack was in a hospital gown. The next day he was in his clothes and shoes we were told to bring. I hadn’t seen Jack in clothes in those 9 months. EVERYONE who came in contact with Jack at TIRR Memorial Hermann treated him like he could hear and understand. EVERYONE treated Jack with respect. They closed the door when they changed him. Sounds like a small thing, but for me it was overwhelming. Jack received speech, physical and occupational therapy every day. I learned how to take care of Jack: how to feed him, how to stretch him, how to give him his meds. Dr. O’Brien was able to determine that Jack had emerged and did understand us. Jack had a long stay at TIRR Memorial Hermann that involved some complications health wise. We ended up bouncing from TIRR Memorial Hermann to acute care hospitals in Houston. It was always a disappointment when Jack would have a medical setback. We would eventually leave the skilled nursing facility because we knew Jack would lay in bed without therapy. Even a few days without therapy would set us back . We were accurately warned that Jack was susceptible to infection. We have been battling this since coming home, but we continue to look forward positively.
Did he make the progress I was hoping for? No, but I learned enough to bring Jack safely home. The therapists and social worker helped us get ready to come home. They have become part of our team, even at a distance. I know the care he received at TIRR Memorial Hermann was instrumental in getting us home. We learned how to advocate for Jack and find continued therapy in Las Vegas.
Life is now thought of in terms of “before Jack fell” and “after Jack fell.” Jack’s brother and sister worry about taking care of Jack someday, and we have all been forced to have some very difficult conversations about quality of life. Jack’s friends still visit, but not quite as much as in the beginning. It’s bittersweet to see them. They love Jack and tell me stories about him, but when they leave I always think about how time marches on for them. I know Jack would be accomplishing so many wonderful things if he hadn’t fallen. And I’m sad for Jack and for our family. But I do remind myself, often, how lucky we are to have Jack at home.
For the 32nd consecutive year, TIRR Memorial Hermann is recognized as the best rehabilitation hospital in Texas and No. 2 in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report's "Best Rehabilitation Hospitals" in America.Learn More