Connie Steiert

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August 26, 2004
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Gypsum rallies to help Joshua Jay

The call came at 11 p.m. It was to be a call that would drastically alter the Jay family's life. An emergency room nurse from Hardin, Mont. was on the line: 19-year-old son Joshua was fighting for his life."Every parent, who has kids - that is the telephone call they don't want to get," said Gypsum resident Robert Jay, Joshua's father, recalling how his heart dropped at the news. "You spend the best part of your adult life hoping never to hear the call. It's so devastating."No one really knows what caused the accident on July 10. Joshua, a 2003 Eagle Valley High School graduate, was 10 months into a two-year missionary commitment for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was working with the Crow Indians on a reservation near Hardin when, on the way home for the evening, something went very wrong."It was a freak accident," said Robert Jay, who works at Kinder Morgan Energy. Afterwards, neither of the two young missionaries traveling in the car could say just what caused the single-vehicle accident.The other missionary escaped virtually unharmed. Joshua was left paralyzed from the chest down, a quadriplegic. Now, a month later, Joshua has regained some feeling in his shoulders and biceps. "Initially, all he had was feeling from the neck up," said Robert Jay. He has gained some movement in his shoulders and biceps, but still has no feeling in his hands, or anything from the chest down. The doctors refuse to give a long-term prognosis, because each individual's outcome can vary so much. But they do say it will be weeks, even years, before they can tell just how much Joshua, now 20, will ultimately recover from the devastating accident.Mountain of medical bills

One thing is certain, however: the medical bills are already mounting in mind-boggling ways. From the Hardin emergency room, Joshua was airlifted to St. Vincent's hospital in Billings, where he remained in intensive care for two weeks. Those two weeks alone cost half a million dollars. Fortunately, the missionary insurance will cover most of those expenses. But that is only the tip of the iceberg of the medical and rehabilitation bills yet to come.Joshua is currently at Craig Rehabilitation in Denver, where he is undergoing intensive physical therapy, with experts on spinal cord injuries. His C6 vertebrae, the one that helps control breathing, was shattered in the accident, and his C5 and C7 vertebrae (the latter is the one that helps control hand movements) were also damaged. The shattered vertebrae has been removed, and a support, or "halo," attached to help support his neck and head. If a spinal cord is severed, Robert Jay said, there is no chance of re-growth; but when it is traumatized or damaged, such as in Joshua's case, it may re-grow. Only time will tell.Another worry with patients who have lost the ability to breathe on their own is that they will develop pneumonia - which is exactly what Joshua did. Four weeks later he is finally recovering from that illness."He's getting better," said Robert Jay, adding that his wife, Janet, has not left Joshua's side. The doctors believe Joshua will learn to breathe on his own again, and in four to six weeks can be taken off the respirator.But the missionary insurance that has covered some of the medical expenses thus far expires in October; and Medicare, Robert Jay found to his dismay, has a very narrow wall of eligibility and will not come close to meeting all the family's expenses. Each day at Craig Rehabilitation - without adding in the doctors' fees - costs $1,400. Then, there is the cost of a wheelchair, lifts at home to help move Joshua from wheelchair to bed or bath, and a wheelchair-accessible van, which start at $54,000.

Community supportDespite it all, Robert Jay said his son's spirits remain good and he is thankful for all the support he has received."He is really grateful for all the letters and concern," he said. Joshua has received letters and cards from around the world through the Missionary Mom Internet network of more than 30,000 missionaries worldwide, and from friends and neighbors in Eagle County. "We've had such great support from people here in the Eagle Valley," said Robert Jay, whose family has lived in the valley since 1991, and whose five children are either attending, or have graduated from Eagle Valley schools. "The value of prayer and meditation cannot be undervalued and have played a significant role in the recovery that Joshua has received to this time," Robert Jay said. "He wants people to know that he appreciates that, and that we are going to be okay."The doctors expect that Joshua - barring any complication - will return home on Nov. 17. In the meantime, the family is busy trying to remodel the house to make it wheelchair accessible - installing ramps, widening doors, installing hoists, and removing the carpet.His father says of son Joshua, an elder at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: "He loved being a missionary, and loved being there and meeting with people, working with them."==========================================

Fund for JoshuaA fund to help defray Joshua Jay's medical and rehabilitation expenses has been established at Weststar Bank in Gypsum. Contributions can be sent to the Joshua Jay Rehabilitation Fund - or payable to Robert Jay - at Weststar Bank, P.O. Box 1129, Gypsum, CO 81637. Or, drop off contributions at any Weststar Bank.For those who wish to help, but cannot afford a monetary contribution, the Jay family has several remodeling projects that need to be accomplished before Joshua can return home. Persons wishing to help with these projects can contact the Jays at (970) 524-9495.====================================================================================Thanks to allJoshua Jay and his family want to thank all the people who have expressed concern. The family particularly wants to thank the Eagle Valley Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Boy Scout Troop 230 in Gypsum, B&B Construction, Mayne Block, Kinder Morgan Inc. and various religious organizations and denominations that have included Joshua in their Prayers.==========================================


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The VailDaily Updated Sep 1, 2004 04:08PM Published Aug 26, 2004 12:00AM Copyright 2004 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.