At a pool party Aug. 7, Isak Hedeen lay floating, stomach up in the water unable to move. He had mistakenly dove into the shallow end of the pool, hitting his head and injuring his spine.
“When I hit the bottom of the pool everything was kind of spun on an axis, I had zero sense of direction. I didn't know where up was and it kind of felt like a big gong went off in my head,” Isak said.
After about a minute, someone noticed Isak in the pool and carried him out. Isak was rushed off in an ambulance, and had spinal surgery at 1 a.m. For the next two weeks, he recovered in the intensive care unit.
“I was heavily sedated and medicated for the first week. And that was really weird — I had tons of hallucinations,” he said.
Isak’s path to recovery has been astonishing — according to his Caringbridge page, the speed at which he has recovered control and strength in his hands and upper body surprised his doctors.
“For the first week (after surgery), I couldn't feel anything. I couldn't really move anything, my hands barely worked, and then probably five days into the hospital that I just woke up [and] my hands were working perfectly fine,” Isak said.
Isak spent the next month at the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, and was able to go home on his birthday, Sept. 18.
It was really lonely because I couldn't even see people in the hospital so especially at that time, the letters were really awesome ... [It] was pretty fun to be able to see what my friends were saying."
Jack Myhre, a close friend of Isak’s since middle school, said Isak has maintained his fun-hearted and sweet nature throughout his recovery.
“It was hard to believe that that actually happened. But he's been way more positive than I would have thought anybody could be about this situation,” Jack said. “It was really nice to be able to see that he wasn't really getting down on himself too much.”
Because of the coronavirus and limits placed on visitors, the support system that usually surrounds patients — including friends, family and other visitors — has disappeared.
“It was tough that we weren’t able to see him, so really all we could do was hear about how he was doing from his parents,” Jack said.
While Isak was in the hospital, Letters of Love decided to collect cards for him. All together they sent Isak over 200 cards.
“It was really lonely because I couldn't even see people in the hospital so especially at that time, the letters were really awesome,” Isak said. “[It] was pretty fun to be able to see what my friends were saying.”
Letters of Love has always had the goal of providing emotional support to people in the hospital, but that mission has become even more important in the face of the pandemic.
“Emotional support is looked over by a lot of people and especially organizations,” Jack said. “I think emotional support and getting cards is like a huge deal for the well being of patients.”