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Thursday, November 11, 2021 11:32 AM

Leon S. Peters Rehabilitation celebrates 50 years

MedWatch Today

“Tears are running down my face. I shouldn’t be alive, but I am,” starts the thank-you letter Jacob Jackson wrote to the Leon S. Peters Foundation and Community Regional Medical Center caregivers who helped save him after a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 2014.

Jackson returns to Community Regional frequently for the annual trauma center reunion to express his gratitude to his care team. He says it was when he began the hard work of recovery at the Leon S. Peters Rehabilitation Center that he felt he might actually return to the person he used to be.

On Nov. 13, the Leon S. Peters Rehabilitation Center celebrates its 50th anniversary of helping patients like Jackson learn to walk and talk again after critical illnesses and injury.

Rehab therapists help an older woman walk

The 32-bed inpatient rehabilitation center, part of Community Regional, treats about 630 people a year, providing physical, occupational, recreational and speech-language therapy to patients recovering from trauma, burns and strokes. The rehabilitation team uses the latest equipment and specialized software for those recovering from heart and other surgeries.

The Leon S. Peters Rehabilitation Center, known for its expertise in helping those with spinal injuries and traumatic brain injuries, has been supported throughout its 50 years by the Leon S. Peters Foundation.

A second chance at life

Jackson shared his story in a MedWatch Today episode, but tells it best in his letter to the Leon S. Peters Foundation and his caregivers:

“Community Regional Medical Center gave me a second chance at life. God gave me another life to live, and today I am living!

“I made a lot of bad decisions before my accident. That day, I flew off a motorcycle at 90 miles per hour with no helmet on. I managed two collapsed lungs, two broken ribs, a broken back, a shattered eye socket and head trauma. My injuries were so severe that I shouldn’t be alive.

Jacob Jackson lies in a coma in his hospital bed

“I spent 89 days at Community Regional. I was in a coma for 5 weeks. My family lived through a nightmare, watching me lay in a bed lifeless. I wish I could take it all back. My parents stayed with me every moment they could. They lived in their RV that was parked at Terry’s House, right across the street. My mom still talks about how much she loves that place.

“My dad is sharp. He’s also a jokester. On their way out of my room one night, Dad tried to make Mom smile by asking me to pucker up for a kiss goodbye (even though I had been in a coma for over a month). Dad got more than he expected. After 35 days of watching me lay still in that hospital bed, sure enough, I puckered up for a kiss.

“That was the moment my second life began.

“I spent another 54 days in the hospital. When I woke up, I was a skeleton of a man. I was 6’3” and only 100 pounds. I didn’t recognize my family or my own body. They told me I couldn’t even follow commands. I just stared blankly at everyone. But, somehow, I graduated from the ICU and officially became a trauma survivor.

Rehab therapists helped make me whole again

“I spent my last few weeks at Community in the Leon S. Peters Rehabilitation Center. This is where I was made whole again. This is where I got my life back and where I was made into a better me.

“On day one, I couldn’t walk. I thought I knew how to walk, but I didn’t. I wanted to give up right there. For weeks, the staff stood their ground and somehow pushed me to reach my goals when I just didn’t want to go on.

“Why do they care about me? I’m no one. I don’t deserve this. Why are they so good to me and my family? There aren’t many places in this world like the Leon S. Peters Rehabilitation Center. My therapists gave their everything to help a complete stranger, me, reach their full potential. Corry, one of my nurses, lit the fire under me that gave me my independence back. Community gave me my life back.

“I am grateful every day. I should be in a wheelchair. I should be blind. I should be in the ground. Instead, I am now married, I have a son, and I am able to provide for my family.

Jacob Jackson and his wife stand together in their backyard

“When I drive a tractor up and down rows of grape vineyards, pull a lever or shift gears, I remember when I couldn’t even grasp a pencil. I am so grateful to the people who choose to become a nurse, physical therapist, or trauma surgeon. I’m grateful to Community for picking the best of the best to work in their hospital. And I’m grateful to the Leon S. Peters Foundation for making my rehabilitation possible.

“I remember so many helicopters landing on top of the hospital. I don’t know what their stories were, but I thanked God every time one landed at Community because a miracle was about to take place. A life, like mine, was about to be saved.

“To the board of the Leon S. Peters Foundation, thank you for supporting Community. You make miracles like mine possible.”

— Jacob Jackson