Wednesday, April 19, 2017

JACKSON THOMAS: "I'm Not Sure How He Made It, But He Did"


Last Thursday morning, the world turned upside down for Jackson Thomas – literally.

Jackson, a recent high school graduate with a passion for photography, video, and travel, has filled his Instagram and YouTube feeds with images and short films of his adventures camping, hanging around Franklin with friends, touring Israel, living in Greece, and exploring Turkey. Jackson invited his viewers along as he jumped into oceans, walked railroad tracks, climbed rooftops, and rode foreign highways, often with his trademark left hand extended with an open palm.


Jackson wasn't planning to attend college. He was going to chase his passion for film, travel, and photography and eventually support himself with his own business. His parents were 100% supportive of his plans. Besides the social media posts, Jackson also took senior portraits and interned with Compass Cinema. And a multitude of other things like working part-time at McCreary's in his hometown of Franklin, Tennessee.

As a kind of graduation celebration, Jackson traveled with "The Roadshow," which hired him as a photographer for three shows of its tour. Jackson and his dad, Dwane, left for California on March 1 and hung with the band for the first 5 days. The last show was in Colorado Springs.


Afterwards, Dwane and Jackson attended a Brendan Brechard conference on the 8th. Dwane and his son both had read and discussed a lot of Brendan's books, and they both functioned with his goal-oriented, positive, how-can-I-serve-others mentality. Jackson was the youngest person there, and he loved the conference. After the conference, Jackson’s friend Mitchell flew out to meet him. They were driving around, living in the van and taking pictures. They stayed with a friend in LA for a week or so.


Meanwhile Jackson’s family, his mom and dad and four younger sisters, traveled to Greece for the second year in a row to work with Syrian refugees through a local ministry, Servant Group International. Servant Group, a local non-profit with twenty years of dedication to reaching and serving Muslim communities through schools in Iraq, has more recently sponsored short-term service trips and local ministry here in Nashville to support refugees. The family planned to stay through July 25. The girls and Gretchen loved being with the Syrian and Afghan people and were excited to be there.


Besides helping with refugee work, Dwane was there to study and learn Greek. A Latin teacher for nearly twenty years at various schools in Franklin, Dwane shifted his Latin teaching online to create Visual Latin. The Greek trips afforded Dwane the opportunity to learn Greek by immersion and expand his online education platform.


Last Thursday morning, Jackson and Mitchell were headed home. Jackson slept well Wednesday night, had coffee, and crossed the mountains. A natural morning person, Jackson was driving the first shift while Mitchell slept in the back. Around 8:30 am (as best as people can figure out) a tire blew out on the van. Mitchell woke to a violent shaking followed by a heavy sway to one side and then two huge swerves before the van started to roll. It rolled six times, landing upright. Mitchell, who was unhurt, immediately got out of the side door and checked on Jackson.




Passersby called 911 and came to help. A nurse heard the call on her emergency radio while going to work, and she turned around to go to the scene. She held Jackson's head to apply pressure to a large laceration until EMT arrived forty-five minutes later.

A life flight took Jackson to the hospital in Aurora, right outside Denver. Mitchell did not have to be medically transported. At the hospital, a team of doctors treated Jackson for the head laceration (which now has forty staples), brain trauma and bleeding, two mildly fractured ribs, a punctured lung, and some mildly fractured vertebrae. (Doctors have not been able to assess as much about those injuries because Jackson cannot sit up or stand yet. Jackson also suffered a humerus bone broken by the elbow into three pieces and a left hand with four fingers broken, some in more than one place. During a Monday surgery, Jackson had plates, pins, and wires installed to hold the arm and hand bones in place for healing).


That left hand was shattered.

But the boy lived.
  • He suffered no internal injuries. 
  • His face was left whole and uncut. 
  • His feet and legs were not broken. 
  • Mitchell was conscious as well and able to help him
  • He received immediate help from a skilled professional sooner than expected
Miracles, miracles, and more miracles.

In Greece, Dwane and Gretchen and their daughters heard of the accident and rushed to sever plans, cancel reservations, and hurry home. Though they had travel insurance to cover some expenses, their return flights cost €12,000.

Back home, Gretchen’s sister and Jackson’s old boss at Compass Cinema flew to Denver before the day was out to support Mitchell and Jackson. More friends prayed, called relatives and friends in the area to visit the hospital and pray, set up a GoFundMe account, and filled it with over twenty thousand dollars so far. Friends plastered Jackson’s story across social media and sent words of love and support to the family. Friends even had coffee and snacks delivered to the hospital.

Gretchen arrived Friday, and Dwane and the girls arrived soon after. Doctors have told the family that Jackson is looking at a two-to-three-week minimum stay in the hospital, which means that the Thomas family will be staying in Colorado for the time being.
Jackson’s physical therapy will be long and painful. He will not be taking pictures any time soon. And the family needs help, too.

***THERE ARE A NUMBER OF WAYS THAT YOU CAN HELP THE FAMILY...***
(and this is where this blogpost counts).

Here are their needs:
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  • The MEDICAL BILLS the Thomas family incurs will supercede their insurance
  • Once Jackson leaves the hospital, he can get a total of 40 OUTPATIENT THERAPIES of any combination, but he will require extensive therapy.
  • Add to that the change in TRAVEL PLANS and the new expense of a hotel near the hospital for six people and travel. 
  • They have household obligations in Greece FOR THE NEXT THREE MONTHS (like rent on their apartment to which they are currently committed to pay through May 13).
  • The Thomas FAMILY VAN WILL NEED TO BE REPLACED, something they are likely to do while in Colorado instead of incurring the added cost of a rental for three weeks.
  • JACKSON'S CAMERA IS SHATTERED AS WELL AS HIS IPHONE, Not sure if his computer is functional yet. Those technologies are the tools of his trade.
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The goal is to raise $150,000 BEFORE JACKSON TRANSFERS TO HOSPITAL IN TENNESSEE. We're talking about two more weeks. Over $20,000 has been donated through GoFundMe in less than a week. So we need to SHARE, SHARE, SHARE the family's needs.


The Thomas family (both Dwane and Gretchen) have taught, loved, and cared for children in Franklin, Tennessee for twenty years. Now it’s time for Franklin to show up for them. And beyond. Franklin and beyond. What can you do to help? Currently, here are 3 portals:
  • Pray. Share his story with other people who will give and pray.
  • Give to Jackson’s GoFundMe to cover family expenses and medical bills.
  • Follow Jackson’s Caring Bridge site to send messages of support.
  • Supply activities for family members who are not in the hospital (Friends suggest that sketch pads, journals, face paints and brushes, colored pencils, books, movie passes, and outings like horseback riding would all help the family, especially the four girls, to cope with the long days of sitting at a hospital or hotel).

Right now, Dwane and Gretchen aren't counting costs. They are counting blessings.



When asked about Jackson, Gretchen says, All in all [Jackson’s injuries are] mild compared to what it could have been… More friends continue to support us through prayer, financial giving, showing up, having coffee delivered ;) providing snacks and emailing or messaging their encouragement... Thank you thank you thank you!

Let’s put the world right side up for a really great family.


(If you want to help beyond the opportunities listed, please, contact Robbie Grayson at stonetableschool@gmail.com).