Student recovers from nearly fatal accident
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 01:02
Jan. 5, 2012, was the day that changed everything for senior university studies major Caleb Jentsch. After an accident that almost took his life, Jentsch has returned to A&M, spreading his message of faithful endurance.
Jentsch and five other friends had been skiing in Breckinridge, Colo., for several days when they decided to change mountains and head for the adjacent town, Keystone. It was nearing time for the group to make their way down the last run when things began to go awry.
The run, “Spillway,” was empty of other skiers. Jentsch and junior allied health major Kyle Baldock were racing past one another when they accidentally crossed skis. Both fell hard, toppling through the snow, when Baldock saw Jentsch strike his head on a tree branch. Baldock said it was immediately clear something was wrong with Jentsch.
“I could tell he was unconscious, but I thought he was just knocked out,” Baldock said. “I could hear him breathing, he was breathing funny. I found a block of ice and propped his head up to get him to breathe better.”
Baldock and a friend flagged down signaled for help. Ski patrol arrived 15 minutes later and began treating Jentsch.
“He would throw up and they would suction it out so it wouldn’t fill up his lungs,” Baldock said.
Jenstch’s body postured while the ski patrol treated him, meaning he was seizing and convulsing from a brain injury.
Jentsch was placed on a stretcher and attached to the back of a snowmobile. He was then airlifted to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Denver.
Jentsch didn’t open his eyes for 13 days. He remained at St. Anthony’s in Denver for 26 days.
Jentsch had suffered from a Traumatic Brain Injury, TBI, and was rated as a three on the Glasgow Coma Scale, meaning he had just escaped “the vegetative state.”
The road to recovery
“The first time I saw Caleb was in March when he was still at TIRR [Memorial Herman],” Joel Bratcher, the director of the Baptist Student Ministry bible study Caleb was involved with said. “He was very much in the dream state, and the day I was there it was a hard afternoon.”
Jentsch said the dream state that resulted from his condition was a dark time for him, one in which he believed every day was actually a dream and nothing that was happening to him was reality.
“This was a big part of the whole recovery process — nothing I believed was real,” Jentsch said. “I remember there was one instance where my mom and dad were in the room with me and my dad said, ‘Caleb you need to sit up and take your medicine,’ and I said, ‘No I won’t do that, I want my real parents, you’re my dream parents.’ It breaks my heart every time I think about that because they were there through it all. I have apologized so many times for that.”
Jentsch was next moved to Touchstone Neurorecovery Center in Conroe, Texas. Touchstone was Jentsch’s next step to becoming independent again. He was in a facility made up of three houses with 13-20 other patients that had suffered from brain injuries.
Once Jentsch left Touchstone, he truly began to understand the circumstances he was in.
“I thought, ‘OK, this is probably real’ when I was in Conroe but once I got back to something familiar, when I was at home with my family constantly, then I knew it was real,” Jentsch said.
Jentsch was able to return to Colorado to thank his doctors, nurses and the ski patrol for saving his life. He also visited the site where the accident had happened; even taking the branch he hit to make into a cross for Baldock.
Through the entire process, his parents updated a CaringBridge page daily to inform family and friends of Jentsch’s miraculous progress, a blessing, they said, from the Lord. The page has seen 246,237 visitors, and contains themes and messages deeply rooted in the family’s spirituality. Jentsch’s family is now trying to publish the blog into a book so more people can know of their son’s hopeful story.