By Jerry Lips
On June 21, our youngest son, Jesse, age 21, was in a motorcycle accident. It was a horrific accident. Jesse suffered severe injuries and was in a coma for eight days. A young man that had recently taken EMT training saw the accident and using his training and medical kit, saved Jesse’s life, pumping air into his lungs for 15 minutes until paramedics and ambulance arrived.
Our prayers were answered with each passing hour as Jesse’s life hung in the balance—24, 48 and then 72 hours. Surgery by very talented and dedicated doctors put Jesse back together, and after two weeks, he entered world-renowned Craig Hospital, where his recovery has been miraculous.
Laurie and I spent many days at Jesse’s bedside and met many remarkable people. It’s been an awakening to discover that there are so many truly wonderful human beings dedicated to helping others, people whose primary calling in life is to unselfishly serve the sick and afflicted.
Jesse suffers paralysis on his right side, but is determined to walk out of Craig Hospital by Labor Day, when his intensive rehabilitation treatments as a resident are complete.
Although Laurie and I are both South Dakota farm kids, where dealing with adversity was normal everyday stuff, the challenge took us to a higher level. You can probably describe South Dakota farmers in a single word—”hardscrabble.” Much hard work happens there, but the results don’t always match the efforts. George McGovern, a retired senator from South Dakota, said of South Dakotans’ toughness, “We’re accustomed to coping with misery and failure. It’s success that confuses us.” Of course, he was being funny, but humor has a kernel of truth.
The American optimist, Thomas Paine, wrote, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem to lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”
As we sit by Jesse’s bedside, it seems apparent that the most important thing in life is our family and friends. Friends who have called and helped support us during this trying time have been a great strength. That kind of love and support shows the greatness of the human spirit.
Many pioneers of flight showed their determination and greatness of the human spirit too. Even today, the hardscrabble attitude of the pioneers of space, even those that will be aboard the shuttle that will be going back into space, shows our determination, our willingness to be brave and courageous, even through adversity and loss of talented friends. This fighting spirit is so evident throughout aviation’s short history. Airport Journals this month presents part two of Gene Cernan’s interview, the “Last Man on the Moon.” He has that distinction now, but other records will someday overtake his claim.
To quote aviation’s good friend, Kermit Weeks, “It is the dearness of the journey, not the destination, which gives everything its value.”