Teenage ski accident victim takes his safety message to the slopes
Vince Vitrano, Stephanie Graham
MILWAUKEE - We introduced you to 13-year-old Jacob DeGroot about a month ago, as his journey to recovery was just beginning after a horrible ski accident. Now--he's starting to think about the future that lies ahead.
Even though they live in the Fox Valley town of Kaukauna, the DeGroot family is pretty well known by the staff at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
"They are amazing, so nice to everyone, and literally do whatever you want, pretty much," Jacob says.
Now all Jacob wants is to get back to somewhat normal.
"I still can't really do much. Truthfully there's nothing I really can do this Summer," Jacob admits.
You see, Jacob suffered severe brain trauma just a couple months ago, after he crashed into a tree during a school ski trip. Hi dad Lloyd feels very grateful for where they are today.
"We gotta thank God for our medical field because if it didn't all fall in place we'd be sitting in a different situation right now," Lloyd says.
In a last minute attempt to save him, Dr. Karl Greene at Theda Clark Medical Center removed a part of Jacob's skull to relieve the pressure on his brain.
These days, the mood at the hospital is much more relaxed, as doctors at Children's oversee Jacob's recovery. Just a couple weeks ago they replaced his skull bone.
"It feels way better just to have the skull back in," Jacob says.
From a quilt from his classmates, to pre-cooked dinners, to monetary donations--The family is forever grateful to everyone who has helped.
"It's... pretty insane!" Jacob admits.
His mom Patti adds, "I'm overwhelmed by it, can't even put in words."
The family has also learned to appreciate life in a new way.
"It's nice to think about the future, and real easy to dwell on the past, but because of this experience, you learn real fast to live in the moment--be thankful for today, and to not worry about what happens tomorrow," Patti says.
Jacob is already making it his mission to help raise awareness.
He recently shot a public service announcement about helmet safety at Sunburst Ski Area... After safety advocates saw our story!
"When I was there, there was a girl who saw what happened with my head, and she wanted a helmet cuz she never wore one, so she rented a helmet," Jacob exclaims.
Jacob also hopes to get back out on the volleyball court. He has to take it easy for awhile, but the future is bright for the teen--with a new lease on life.
"I mean live it now, and probably be a better person by helping other kids and stuff," Jacob says.
Jacob is dealing with some post-brain surgery seizures, but doctors think those will subside as he heals. Overall, he is expected to make a full recovery.