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Believe in Jack

Jack Reilly has always enjoyed staying fit. He could often be found at the gym or on an early morning run before work. “I actually just started working out again,” notes Jack, as he walks briskly on a treadmill in preparation for a big event this coming weekend. “I’m going to run in my first race on Saturday.” Jack is set to be discharged from outpatient therapy, just over six months after his devastating injury.

In May 2010, Jack was involved in a car accident where he suffered a traumatic brain injury. Jack was transported from the accident to the ICU of an acute hospital, in a coma and unresponsive to commands. Jack’s parents, Jack Sr. and Cindy Reilly, weren’t sure of his prognosis. “The doctors told us that he had a diffused axonal injury, which is often seen in car accidents,” notes Cindy. “His brain rapidly bounced back and forth against his skull which caused damage to a large area, specifically to the right hemisphere. Based on what we were told, very few people with this type of brain injury regain consciousness and if they do, they are significantly impaired.”

After a few weeks, Jack regained consciousness but had numerous neurological deficits. Since the injury damaged the right hemisphere of his brain, his entire left side was affected, with severe tone in his arm and leg, and numbness, which lingers in his left hand today. “Initially, when he came to, he didn’t make much sense and had no memory of the accident or even being at the acute hospital,” explains Cindy. “He also was put on a feeding tube because he couldn’t swallow.”

Fortunately, Jack made progress, little by little, day by day. After four weeks in the acute hospital, he was discharged and sent to an inpatient rehabilitation facility. “I only really remember the last few days in the rehabilitation facility, but I know it put me on the right path,” notes Jack. “I think with love and support from my family and good friend Kelly at my side, I had everything I needed to recover.”

Earlier this summer, Cindy’s sisters helped raise $8,000 in their small town in northern Wisconsin to help with Jack’s medical expenses. “Believe in Jack,” she explains while showing off her bracelet and necklace marked with the motto. “While we were sitting in the hospital, looking for inspiration and hope, we came up with the phrase and it just stuck. We are so grateful that people in a small town, so far away, would be so generous and compassionate. Now we all have this jewelry to keep things in perspective.”

In late July, after five weeks at the inpatient facility, Jack arrived at Marianjoy’s Oakbrook Terrace Day Rehabilitation Program to begin intensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy.

Almost immediately and with help from his therapists, Jack started to make tremendous strides in his recovery. “When Jack arrived at Marianjoy, he was in a wheelchair and very weak. Within the first couple of days, the therapists had him standing, doing exercises to build strength and to improve the range of motion in his arm and leg,” states Cindy as she sits, admiring her son’s progress with a smile. “I can’t think of one day since we’ve been here that we haven’t seen improvement. The people here are so determined to get him better.”

As Jack opens his thick black binder to insert sheets of new exercises, Cindy confirms Jack’s determination, coupled with the compassionate care of Marianjoy’s therapists, is a big reason why he’s made such a miraculous recovery. “His drive is insane. He wanted to start running again, so his therapists worked with him to reach that goal. They were so unique with their approach – they would take him outside to work on his gait or have him on the treadmill with support so he wouldn’t fall. I came home a few weeks ago to find he left the house to go for a short run. That’s how far he’s come. Now, we’ll get to see him achieve it this weekend.”

Inspired by his story and his strength to overcome tremendous odds, Jack’s family, including his parents, sisters Michelle and Jennifer, his close friend Kelly, and team of therapists and doctors at Marianjoy will run alongside him in the Chilly Chili 5K Run at Schaumburg Golf Club – his first race since his injury in May. All those running with Jack will be wearing Marianjoy shirts to show their support and celebrate his accomplishments.

“Now that I’ve finished with my rehab, I plan to volunteer at the local police department near my house,” confirms Jack. “Eventually, I’d like to return to driving and even go back to work.”

 

For Jack, his goals of working and driving again will be significant milestones. But on Saturday, crossing the finish line will mark an amazing victory over his injury.