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The amazing story (and recovery) of Jesse Rick

Miracles still happen! Jesse Rick and his family are experiencing lots of them. Jesse is the step-son of Jim Bruggers, a long-time teacher and coach in Kimball. Jesse is a Freshman at Litchfield High School. A horrific accident Just days ago, on Tuesday, Dec. 31, Jesse and his best friend Daren decided to go squirrel hunting on one of those warm, sunny afternoons. Walking through the woods behind their Darwin homes (just southwest of Litchfield), they decided to do some target practicing. One of the boys shot at something on the ground ahead of them, but the bullet (a .22 caliber) ricocheted. The bullet shot through the tear duct of Jesse's right eye and into his brain. It is still lodged about 1 cm (about half an inch) from the outside edge of his middle brain. In its path, the bullet severed a major artery to his brain and Jesse suffered a stroke. The rescue The events that happened next were absolutely critical to Jesse's survival and chances for recovery. Rescue arrived to transport Jesse to the nearest hospital, Meeker County Memorial Hospital in Litchfield. They radioed ahead that a head injury was involved, so a helicopter was summoned. The helicopter landed at MCMH just as Jesse arrived. Jesse, who was unconscious, was loaded onto the helicopter and taken to one of the top three head-trauma hospitals in the country - Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. Jesse flew to Minneapolis while his family, parents Jim and Lori Bruggers and sister Jenna, gathered and drove down. Jim's son Tom lives near HCMC and arrived there before Jesse did. Jim's friend, a doctor at MCMH, called ahead for one of the top neurosurgeons (brain surgeons) in the country, who also arrived before Jesse did. When the helicopter landed in Minneapolis, a team of about 12 experts were waiting for him. He was whisked away to surgery. A front bone in Jesse's skull was removed, to make room for the brain swelling that was inevitable. "All the people involved in rescue and medical care did phenomenal jobs," said Jim Bruggers. "They all did exactly what they were supposed to do, exactly when and how they were supposed to do it. ... That sequence of timing definitely had a lot to do with saving Jesse's life." It also gave Jesse the best chances for recovery. Current status Today (Tuesday), Jesse is stable. There is still the risk of potential setbacks, like bleeding in the brain or additional surgery being required. Doctors are reducing the heavy sedatives he's been on as Jesse becomes more responsive. He can't talk because of the tubes down his throat; he'll most likely get a tracheotomy (tube in his throat for breathing) so he can breath on his own and will be able to speak. Until then he responds to yes-and-no questions with hand squeezes. Doctors and family presume that Jesse doesn't know or remember exactly what happens, and his medications will help block that out - his family can always tell him the details later. His prognosis It's too early to tell what Jesse's recovery will be. He may have residual weakness in his left leg from the stroke; that could be only temporary. His left eye seems okay, and he is able to follow objects with both eyes, but they won't know if or how his vision is affected until Jesse is less sedated and more responsive. Each day, Jesse gains more motor ability; on Sunday he was able to write "JES" when asked to write his name. While they were pessimistic at first, doctors now are quite hopeful for Jesse's recovery. There is a great deal of experience with war-time injuries, and many people have survived and lived normally even with bullets left in the brain. Jesse's family, including his parents, step-parents, sister Jenna, three step-sisters and four step-brothers, are very grateful for all the prayers for them and for Jesse. You can follow Jesse's progress online at . Each day is a miracle, with - we hope - many more miraculous days ahead.