I’m Sarah, Jacob’s mum. This the story behind the reason why my son became known as Titanium Man.
In late January 2013 my 15 year old son Jacob was diagnosed with sinusitis and was admitted to the Ent Department at Mater Dei Hospital. After 5 days of treatment with antibiotics he suffered severe fits and was rushed for an emergency MRI where the Doctors found that the right hand side of Jacob’s brain had been infected and was covered in pus. The infection had entered his brain through his sinuses. This rare condition is known as Meningoencephalitis.
He was immediately prepped for surgery. Within hours they were performing a Craniotomy whereby part of the skull bone was removed in order for the surgeon to scrape away the pus. Unfortunately during the operation there were other complications. There was substantial swelling of the brain. In fact they could not replace the missing part of the skull because of this. Also there was cerebral palsy and a blood clot!
Our nightmare had begun as our world came crashing down around us. From leading perfectly normal routine lives where our biggest worry was whether Jacob would pass his o’levels or not to this living nightmare!
Doctors gave Jacob a 50/50 chance of survival. The infection was treated with the most powerful antibiotics which whilst treating the infection would also decrease his white cell count almost destroying his immune system and making him susceptible to other illnesses.The clot was treated with Heparin to thin the blood in the hope that the clot would resolve. It didn’t.
Unfortunately over the next few weeks Jacob hemorrhaged twice. At one point he had 3 bleeds at once. Every time he bled he had to face another life threatening surgery in order to stem the bleeds. In all he had 3 brain surgeries. Jacob went on to have 2 bouts in ITU as he fought for his life. We were told to prepare for the worst. How do you do that? We were devastated!
We stayed by his side day and night and begged, not prayed to God to save our son. He heard us!
Thankfully Jacob survived and went on to spend 2 1/2 months in Mater Dei Hospital, but was then moved on to rehab at Karen Grech Hospital where he underwent intense therapy for another 2 1/2 months.There he learned to walk again despite being told by doctors that his extensive brain damage would effect his mobility greatly.
When he was discharged from hospital Jacob and myself decided to start a support group on Facebook. Jacob had written a letter on Facebook to another young boy who had also been ill to tell him to never give up. The response to his letter was phenomenal and the comments to my son were so uplifting and full of praise for Jacob that by telling his story to this boy he had not only helped him and his family but also helped himself, This became the basis of the concept behind our support group Survivors Malta. We believe that by sharing stories of surviving a trauma we can help to inspire and motivate other families facing trauma.
By helping others it has also helped my family to heal and by sharing our experiences we do not feel so alone in our struggles as we know that there are other families just like us. I firmly believe in strength in numbers and this is what our support group provides. Who better to understand you than those that have walked in your shoes and have been where you have been?!
Jacob has years of therapy ahead of him. Due to the damage he has stroke like symptoms whereby he suffers partial paralysis and there is loss of sensation on the left hand side of his body. He is making great progress in his walk, but there is still no movement in his left hand and we are not guaranteed if it will ever come back, but I refuse to believe that Jacob will cease to amaze us. He has come so far up to now!
He also returned to school to repeat form 5 in September 2013 and went on to finally do his O’levels the following year shortly after his fourth and final surgery. He is currently attending MCAST on a Business and Commerce course in the hope that one day he will open his own coffee shop.
In March 2014 Jacob had another operation where surgeons fitted a titanium plate to replace the missing skull bone. He has come to be fondly known as Titanium Man ….Malta’s very own Superhero!
My son is an inspiration to many. He has become a beacon of hope. He never gives up and strives to accomplish all that he sets out to do best he can and some of that determination has rubbed off on me as I have written a book about my family’s journey ; Jacob – My Titanium Man.
Life is not perfect. Scars of our trauma run deep and we do struggle as we face our challenges, but I am not complaining. We are in this together as a family. Life is wonderful and I am complete because my family is whole once again. All five of us. My husband Sammy, myself, Jacob and our daughter Chloe and yes even our family dog Peanut!!
Thank you for believing in my son. Remember it’s because of you that the smile stays upon my son’s face.