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The Miraculous Journey of Jason Cumming

One year ago, my nephew suffered a life threatening AVM. His miraculous journey affected us more than we could ever imagine.

My nephew, Jason Cumming, is one year older than my son. 

My sister-in-law and I spent a lot of time together with the kids back then. My son's first introduction to Jason was Jason whacking him in the head with a plastic bowling pin. Jason thought it was quite amusing; my son, not so much.

But that was always Jason: funny, silly, smart, and talented. When he got to West Orange High School he took up the tuba and joined the marching band.

If you don't know about the marching band, you should. Under the direction of Mr. Kelly, they win competitions and championships every year. It is an amazing thing to watch.

Jason was a senior last year, and things were looking great for him. He had been accepted into the Hartford School of Music with a scholarship and was going to double major in music and teaching. So he and parents planned an overnight costume party to celebrate his birthday on March 7, when he would turn 18, to celebrate his good fortune and future.

My brother-in-law was at our house early Saturday afternoon, March 5, 2011, when he got a phone call from one of Jason's friends. Something was wrong with Jason; he was throwing up and his head hurt. He was having trouble seeing. We said, go home and see what's up. We thought it was a virus, too many pancakes, or not enough sleep.

However, after their neighbor (a fire captain) looked at him, he said they needed to call 911. On the way to the hospital, Jason started coding and after stabilizing him, got him to St. Barnabas' Pediatric Emergency. 

We got a phone call about an hour later telling us that Jason had suffered an AVM (an anterior venous malformation); that it had ruptured at the base of his brain, and that a shunt was put in. Worse, he was in an induced coma and it was unclear as to how much damage it had caused, or if he would even survive. We rushed to the hospital where the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) waiting room was filled with family and friends.

It's hard to describe how I felt as we entered that waiting room. It was so raw, so visceral, to face the very real possibility that someone you loved, so alive and full of promise one moment, may no longer be here or whether there was extensive neurological damage. 

It would almost sound trite to say that life could be this fleeting. Instead, I tried to focus myself on being supportive, and positive, and began to pray. Pray for Jason, for his family, his friends, for us. It was a journey we were all embarking on together. The vigil began.

Jason made it through the first night and days, but those hours were dramatic and discouraging as doctors and nurses fought to keep him alive. He also needed surgery to address the AVM. Each day, friends and relatives filled the waiting room. Each afternoon, the marching band, Mr. Kelly, and more, came to keep watch, in moments of quiet desperation, in prayer, in grief, in tears, in hope.  There was nowhere else we'd rather be, but to be close to Jason, in the hopes that the love we all had for him would translate into something very tangible for him. We could go in and see him for short periods. Very daunting stuff, intensive care units. But a touch, a prayer, a word of love — we hoped he could sense it and come back to us.

Jason was still in a coma (no longer medically induced) the following Wednesday.  The doctors were not optimistic about his brain activity. 

After collapsing into a heap at my own doctor's appointment after hearing that, I spoke to a bunch of family and friends and set up a "Say A Prayer for Jason" day that Friday at noon. Thousands of people across the country joined together to ask for a miracle. Even the high school had a moment of silence for Jason. 

The very next day, eight days after his AVM, Jason Cumming squeezed his mother's hand. It was a very simple thing, but something that she — and all of us — will never forget. Just as a newborn placed in your arms, so too, Jason was placed back in ours. 

By Monday he was out of the coma completely. He was then able to get the surgery he needed. A week or so after the surgery, he was transferred to Kessler Rehab, where he remained for several weeks, and finally, miraculously, in April, Jason came home.

In June, we attended the Spring Concert at the high school, where, you guessed it, Jason played a tuba solo and got a standing ovation. One, which I might add, brought more than a tear to many an eye. He continued to improve with balance and coordination and he was able to head off to college as planned. 

Though Jason still needs an operation (scheduled for May) to correct his double vision, and he has to read through a specially designed prism, he's still managed to make the Dean's List and get accepted in the music fraternity at Hartford.

Upon reflection, I see the thread of God's hand on Jason's life from the moment he had the AVM: from his friend recognizing something was really wrong; to the fire captain being a neighbor and friend; to the EMTs stabilizing him on the way to the hospital; to the doctors and nurses; to the family and friends that kept watch, praying, and loving him — it formed the patchwork for a quilt full of life, and not death. It made an imprint on all of us, and we will never forget.

This is what Jason posted on his facebook page today: "Hey everyone. A year ago today I was comatose and hospitalized by an AVM rupturing in my brain. I'd like to thank everyone for the love and support and I'm thankful to still be here today."

Well, you know what? We're all thankful. We're thankful for family, for friends, for doctors, for nurses, and for love. And very thankful for Jason.

I'm also thankful for faith, for hope, and miracles, that I believe with every fiber of my being still occur today.

How do I know?

Every time I see Jason, I see one.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kathryn March 06, 2012 at 11:32 AM
He's an incredible boy, and an incredible story. Thanks for sharing!
Cynthia Cumming March 06, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Yes, Julie, he's at the Hartt School of Music.
Judy O'Malley March 06, 2012 at 03:22 PM
WOW! I actually got to Jason and his mom and dad at Trumpets last year for the WOHS Project Graduation findraiser. Glad he is improving and on his way.
Beverly Meaux March 09, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Thanks for reminding us how every day, every little thing, is important and a blessing. So glad to hear the good news.
Marlene Kimberly April 22, 2012 at 06:07 PM
We were praying here in CT too & many a candle was lite for your nephew too!

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