The punches kept coming. Left, right, uppercut, jab. He never knew from which direction they’d fly. He kept his fists up, his eyes on his opponent, and then for a split second, let his guard down. That’s when everything changed.
Jared Garbett, of Tooele, let his guard down for just a moment while boxing with friends and took a hit to the face that knocked him out. The brain injury the 17-year-old received due to the fall was serious enough that he was not expected to live through it, much less recover without life-altering brain damage.
“He stumbled in a circle, fell and hit his head on the cement,” said his mother, Michelle Garbett, in a blog used to update friends and family on Jared’s condition.
That was Jan. 31, 2011. At the time, Jared was a 14-year-old high school freshman living in St. George with his parents, Michelle and Lee Garbett. They had relocated from Tooele to St. George just weeks before the boxing accident that caused his brain injury. They have since moved back to Tooele.
The first prognosis was grim.
“He was considered non-viable on scene,” Michelle said.
She arrived at the hospital shortly after the ambulance, but the medics did not bring Jared into the hospital because he had become comatose. They were still in the ambulance fighting to save his life.
The first doctor Michelle had a chance to speak with confirmed the bleak recovery prospect.
“He said, ‘I don’t have time to talk to you. We are life-flighting your son. He’s got bleeding on his brain. He’s swelling so bad he’s not breathing. He probably won’t make it. I’ve got to go,’” she said.
All this took place in just a matter of minutes. It was approximately 10 minutes from the time Jared fell to the pavement after receiving the blow while play-boxing until he arrived at the hospital.
Jared was a block away from the Garbett’s home in St. George at a friend’s house when the accident happened. Michelle was at home unpacking and Lee was driving to California on a business trip with his boss. They were about a half an hour south of Las Vegas at the time.
One of Jared’s friends called Michelle with the news. After Michelle arrived at the hospital and obtained the information from the doctor, she called Lee.
When Michelle explained the situation and told Lee that the nurse had informed her to kiss Jared goodbye because he might not live, his initial reaction was shock.
“It just couldn’t be,” Lee said. “I knew he was probably going to die. I was trying to be a man and not cry in the car, but that didn’t last.”
Jared was life-flighted to a Las Vegas Level One Trauma Center. All medical personnel involved didn’t think Jared had a chance to even survive the flight.
Lee’s boss immediately turned the car around and headed back to Las Vegas. Lee arrived at the hospital before Michelle, who had to drive the one and a half hours from St. George to Las Vegas.
When Jared arrived in Las Vegas, the medical team immediately began surgery to relieve the swelling on his brain. Jared received a craniotomy, which is a surgery where doctors remove a section of the skull to expose the brain. This allows pressure caused from the swelling due to the injury to be released.
The doctors refused to make any promises. They explained that the first 72 hours were the most critical because the possibility of death was the greatest during that time.
Their first glimmer of hope came on the third day when the medical staff took Jared off of coma-inducing medications to see if he would respond.
“He didn’t wake up, but he was thrashing around,” Michelle said.
The nurses assured the Garbetts that it was a good sign, meaning his brain was at least responsive to pain.
The coma waking-up process usually takes five to seven days because the body takes that long to metabolize the medicine. It took Jared nine days to fully regain consciousness.
Although Jared doesn’t remember it, he recounts what others have told him about that time.
“I came out swinging,” he said. “In my mind, I was still boxing with my friends.”
Jared would get frustrated because he didn’t know where he was. He would ask his dad where they were and Lee would explain they were at the hospital.
“He would argue and say, ‘No we’re not. We’re at Dairy Delight,’ because he had been at Dairy Delight two days before the accident,” Lee said.
Jared said he doesn’t remember much of that time during the waking-up phase. His first memories start three and a half weeks after the accident when he was moved to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. Jared remembers the flight there.
“Once I left Vegas on the fixed wing, I remember everything after that,” he said.
By that time, everyone was amazed at Jared’s progress. The doctors, nurses and others who were experienced with major brain traumas all said Jared’s recovery was miraculous.
“Jared recovered further than anybody expected,” Lee said.
According to the Glasgow Coma Scale, which is used to assess patients with major brain trauma, Jared was not expected to survive. The scale measures three indicating factors, eye response, motor response and verbal response. Patients who are completely non-responsive receive a score of one in each of these categories. A GCS score of 8 or below is considered comatose. Out of a possible 15 points, Jared was a three.
“Jared was the lowest, which is death,” Michelle said.
The Garbetts, who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, attribute most of Jared’s recovery to the faith and prayers of all their family and friends.
“We had prayer and fasting from people literally all over the world and of all faiths,” Lee said.
They had LDS missionary friends who were serving in Holland and Africa fasting and praying for them. Their own ward congregation in St. George and those who knew them from Tooele had fasts on behalf of Jared.
One of Jared’s friends, who was present at the sparring match which caused the accident, had his church group at the Calgary Chapel pray for Jared. The CFO of Lee’s company, who attends a Baptist church, had prayer circles within his congregation.
Those prayers were just part of what the Garbetts see as a miracle.
“I believe in miracles,” Michelle said. “I see and I hear of all these small pieces of the puzzle that are all these parts of a miracle that equal out to something grand.”
They believe modern medicine also played a factor in the miraculous recovery.
“We had great medicine, great nurses and great care,” Lee said.
There were circumstances during those first few hours that Garbetts also attribute to Jared’s extraordinary recovery.
One is the timing of the 911 call. One of the teens refereeing the boxing match was studying to be an EMT and knew the signs of trauma. His knowledge led to the ambulance being called right away.
“There were just a lot of things that kind of fell into place,” Michelle said. “Everything seemed to happen for a reason.”
Within a month after the accident, Jared was in physical rehab to learn to walk again. By July 2011, Jared was nearly back to normal, according to his scores on the neuro-physiological tests performed. Before the accident Jared’s IQ was 114, and a mere six months later, he was back to the low 100s. Michelle’s last blog entry in July 2011 talks of this day and the reaction from the doctor about the test results.
“He said that considering everything that happened, Jared is a miracle,” Michelle wrote on the blog. “He shouldn’t be where he is today.”
His rapid recovery has allowed him to hold several part time jobs at restaurants, both in St. George and locally. Currently, he is finishing school via an online schooling program.
Miraculous recoveries aren’t without their continuing trials. Jared deals with memory problems. To this day, he can’t remember that eventful day or the accident. All he knows is what his family and friends have told him. His right hand also doesn’t work like it used to and will occasionally hurt.
His recovery will continue for many more years. However, even with the struggles he still faces, he wouldn’t change the outcome of that day. He believes he has gained a better outlook on life because of the accident.
“I’m more happy and positive,” he said. “I’m more thankful for my life.”