Then and Now: Jack Weeks

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on October 12, 2021 # SCI Awareness

Jack and his dogJack Weeks fields questions about his spinal cord injury with the undisguised and bracing honesty of a teenager. Since injuring his C4- C6 vertebrae in a June 2020 diving accident, there has been no miracle moment, no magical epiphany that suddenly made things easy for Jack, who is 17 years old—whose life had barely begun when it suddenly and forever shifted.

The past year has been hard. After the accident, Jack spent 25 days in intensive care, a period that remains a blur. But the central consequence of the injury was already part of his consciousness; though he cannot remember doing so, Jack told his mother Cammie early on that he was paralyzed.

When he arrived at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for rehabilitation, he struggled with depression. His mind felt stuck on a single thought.

“Not being able to move, that was the only thing in my head,” Jack says. “That’s it. Just that I couldn’t move.”

The tight knit community of teenage patients in the unit ultimately helped him cope. Goofing around and hanging out felt happily normal, remnants of life before the accident.

But the progress Jack gained at Shepherd during his six-month stay was hard to maintain after he returned to Maine in December. Compared to the intense training Shepherd provided, the rehabilitation programs near Portland were smaller and lacking some of the equipment Jack needed. Despite a dedicated team of therapists that Cammie describes as instrumental in helping the family transition to life back home, Jack gradually grew more frustrated.

Jack at rehab.It was the thick of winter, with the pandemic underway. The Weeks had moved to a new house in a new town that could accommodate Jack’s needs; it was difficult not to feel isolated and on their own as he grappled with a different life.

Though family and friends visited, Jack didn’t want to go anywhere. At Shepherd, everyone was living through a similar experience; people using wheelchairs was the norm, not the exception. In Maine, the teen felt self-conscious and hated being seen in his power wheelchair.

The family grew increasingly discouraged, hitting a low point when Jack developed a serious pressure sore in the spring, not long after his 17th birthday.

“It was horrible, physically and mentally,” Cammie says.

Both Jack and Cammie were taking antidepressants, which helped them push forward through what felt like a string of defeats. Jack found comfort in music, television shows, and especially in video games, where he could easily explore online worlds. Gradually—and finally–the pressure sore began to heal.

The summer arrived and with it, a little bit of hope. For the first time since his accident, Jack went out with his friends.

“At first I didn’t want to go,” he says. “People were probably going to stare.”

He got in the car and went anyway. It was just a quick trip to Best Buy to buy headphones, but he managed the extra attention.

“When I got there, I didn’t really care what people thought,” he says. “I did my own thing.”

Jack and CammieIt was just enough to nudge him out of his comfort zone. By the end of the summer, he and his grandmother had gone to the movie theater to see Black Widow, and he and Cammie sailed on an accessible local catamaran.

“I was nervous, but it turned out to be beautiful,” Cammie says. “I got to see a beautiful sunset with my boy.”

In August, Jack began participating in Project Walk, a mobility-based training program across the border in New Hampshire. The weekly workouts have boosted his spirit, helping him feel physically stronger than he has since leaving Shepherd.

“It has brought back hope,” Cammie says. “And it has brought back the ‘you-never-know-unless-you-try’ type of feelings.”

Life remains complicated. Jack is navigating a future he is still trying to understand. The challenges of the past year do not yet add up to a happy ending. But Jack can now look back toward the early days of his injury and feel progress.

“I feel different than when I was first injured,” he says. “I feel better physically and mentally. I don’t have a distinct answer why, it just happened.”

For Cammie, who watched Jack survive the first eight days of his injury with a breathing tube before breathing again on his own, it is easier to see and celebrate her son’s hard-earned milestones. The moment he found the courage to go out with his friends. The flash of happiness on his face after a recent workout. Each victory, whether big or small, makes a difference.

“So much of the time, you’re only feeling as good as your kid is,” she says. “Life is like a pendulum. We were down, but we are definitely on the upswing right now, which is great.”

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.