JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A handful of trauma survivors were recognized, shared their stories of recovery and reunited with the doctors, nurses and staff who treated them as UF Health celebrated Trauma Survivor’s Day on Wednesday.
The UF Health TraumaOne program began in 1983 and was the first trauma center in Florida. Today it remains the only Level I trauma program in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.
The survivors at Wednesday’s event range in age and each had a different story of survival. Some were in car crashes, while others were involved in sporting and outdoor accidents.
One survivor is 18-year-old Jared Hogg, a Mandarin High School graduate. He broke his neck in March 2018. While on spring break, he dove into the water at Guana State Park, hit the bottom and was instantly paralyzed from the chest down.
He was floating face down in the water, nearing his last breath, when his best friend named Sammy, who was by Hogg's side at Wednesday's event, pulled him from the water. A good Samaritan called 911 and Hogg was airlifted to UF Health. Despite what he went through, his sense of humor remains. Hogg refers to that day talking about his free helicopter ride to the hospital.
Hogg was at the intensive care unit for nearly a month and has been in therapy ever since. He is a C4/C5 quadriplegic. He uses a wheelchair to help get him around, but is improving every day and using muscles and body parts he never thought he would be able to use again.
"My recovery has been really slow, but it’s coming along," Hogg said. "There are some people who don’t get the stuff that I did get back, so I’m very thankful for the things I’m getting back."
He credits the doctors, nurses and other UF Health staff for where he is today and said he has a new appreciation for life. Hogg plans to start college classes later this year and hopes to eventually be at the University of Florida, as he’s a big Gators fan.
"Life is truly a gift and I’m fortunate enough to be able to inspire others," Hogg said. "I’m so excited for my future."
Hogg’s mentor, Tim Callahan (both pictured), was another survivor who was honored and a speaker at Wednesday’s event.
In July 2010, Callahan broke his neck during a flag football game. He suffered a severe spinal cord injury and was instantly paralyzed from the neck down.
"Kind of a routine play, ended up breaking my neck -- the C3/C4 level -- and I was paralyzed from the neck down," Callahan said. "I was told I would never walk again."
Callahan was taken to UF Health, where he underwent two surgeries and was told he would likely never walk again. But just a few weeks later, Callahan was already proving doctors wrong.
Today he is walking and living a life that he thought he might never get back. He credits his faith in God, his family and all of the staff at UF Health -- including the doctors, surgeons and nurses -- who stayed by his side during his time at UF Health.
Not only is he walking, Callahan is inspiring others through his Tim Callahan Inspiration Foundation.
"We do free sports camps for kids and get free sporting equipment to kids in need," he explained.
Each day still has challenges for Hogg and Callahan. Though their recovery stories are different, are doing it in a way that’s bringing hope to others.
Click here to learn more about Callahan's foundation.
Another survivor at Wednesday's event was Jacksonville sheriff's Officer Jack Adams. He and his wife, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office bailiff Cathy Adams, along with their two high school-aged children, were all driving home from watching the Mandarin High School state football championship game in Orlando in December when authorities said a suspected drunk driver slammed into the family's SUV. Both children suffered minor injuries. Their mother was killed. Adams was temporarily paralyzed from the neck down.