Hoping for another miracle
By Steven Hoffman
Nearly a year later, Megan Hendry knows the exact moment—7:53 a.m.--when her husband's vehicle hit a patch of black ice on Baltimore Pike and hydroplaned, changing the thirty-two-year-old man's life forever.
The Oxford couple's oldest child, Gabe, was in the vehicle with his father on that bleak, foggy morning, but escaped serious injury.
Jay, who had been on his way to drop Gabe off at the Avon Grove Charter School and then on to his work at Bowling Green Brandywine, was transported to Christiana Hospital with serious injuries, including a severe traumatic brain injury that left him in a coma.
When Megan arrived at the hospital, she was told by doctors that they were working to save her husband's life. He underwent an emergency crainectomy.
In the grueling days that followed, the true extent of the injuries was revealed. Jay suffered a broken back, a fractured sternum, and his left arm was crushed. His face was badly swollen. Megan and the three children were devastated. She knew how hard her husband had battled to overcome Stage 4 colon cancer just seven years earlier. At one point in 2007, Jay's weight dropped to 127 pounds and doctors informed him that he had just three months to live. But Jay underwent extensive treatments and beat the cancer.
“His oncologist,” Megan explained, “calls him a miracle.”
Despite the previous miracle, doctors were less optimistic about a full recovery for Jay after the accident.
“They told me he would need 24-hour care and would need to go to a nursing home,” Megan explained.
She carefully watched her husband for the slightest signs of improvement—the twitch of a finger or a blink of the eye.
“Initially,” she explained, “he would only respond to me. He wouldn't respond for the doctors and nurses. I knew that he was listening. I knew he was making some progress. It didn't matter to me whether what he was doing was big or small, I knew it was progress.”
She wanted to get her husband into a facility that specializes in rehabilitation, especially cognitive rehabilitation, but enough progress hadn't been documented for that to happen.
In March, Jay was transferred to a long-term acute care facility in West Chester, but the stay was brief. He suffered a setback when he had a cerebrospinal fluid leak and was transported back to Christiana Hospital. But Jay was battling with the same spirit that he battled the cancer, and made small improvements.
Megan, who works as a nurse, was able to observe some of these small steps forward that her husband was taking.
“I'm really very focused on what he is doing day to day,” she explained. “I feel like he makes progress every day. It's very, very slow. But he makes progress every day.”
As the calendar flipped from May to June, the slow progress continued. Jay was able to open his eyes, keep them open, and look around the room. On June 30, he was transferred to the Elkton Care and Rehabilitation Center, a nursing home in Elkton. He started receiving therapy and the nursing assistants and therapists were able to really help.
“Jay would respond to them,” Megan said, explaining that her husband slowly came out of his vegetative state.
By August, after not eating on his own for nearly nine months, Jay was able to slowly start transitioning to a liquid diet with some soft foods. He can even push his chair back on his own.
Jay needs to relearn many things, and Megan is still fighting to get him the cognitive and psychological rehabilitation that her husband needs, a seemingly endless battle.
“I would like him to have a chance at an acute injury rehab like Good Shepherd or Bryn Mawr,” Megan explained. “I'm still hopeful about that.”
Throughout this ordeal, Jay and Megan have been helped immensely by family and friends, including Megan's sister-in-law Brittany Marsden, and her parents, Patrick and Susan Curran. In November, a fundraiser was held to raise some money to help the family.
“There has been so much help,” Megan explained. “We're thankful for all the help we've received.”
When Megan showed her husband pictures from the fundraiser, he smiled and laughed.
The Hendry family also had extra reason to be thankful when Jay was able to return to his home on Nov. 17. The family was able to spend Thanksgiving together at her parents' house.
“It was our first holiday together since the accident,” Megan explained. “It was so nice to have everyone sitting around one table for Thanksgiving.”