Jason Jakovac was an avid outdoorsman who loved to camp, fish, and hike. At 40 years old, he was accustomed to good health and didn’t worry at first about the headaches and blurred vision he had been experiencing. His symptoms worsened, however, and Jason sought medical attention. Across the desk, the doctor told him the frightening words, “a tumor on your optic chiasm ” - - words which would come to define a turning point in Jason’s life.
The optic chiasm is the place in the brain where the optic nerves come together. Jason was taken to OHSU for delicate brain surgery where his tumor was successfully removed. A few days later, Jason developed what soon became a long list of lifethreatening complications; infection in his brain’s blood vessels, stroke, diminished blood flow, and the need for a shunt (a surgical tube to drain excess fluid from his brain). Now diagnosed with brain injury, Jason was transferred to Vibra Specialty Hospital for continued recovery.
People often find a special place in our hearts, sometimes for reasons we can’t always understand. When Irina Novak, Vibra’s nurse who specializes in wound care, first met Jason, she felt that familiar connection right away. Irina spent as much time as she could with Jason, often staying with him long after her shift was over. Brain-injured patients need a lot of a cognitive stimulation, requiring frequent reinforcement to improve orientation to person, place and time. Some days are better than others, and progress is usually measured in a “two steps forward, one step backwards” fashion.
In concert with Irina’s efforts and those from nursing and medical staff, the therapy services team at Vibra played an important role in Jason’s progress. Licensed physical, occupational, and speech therapists worked with him daily, and their efforts centered on helping Jason regain lost skills, as well as learning new ways to compensate for those abilities that had been permanently changed because of his brain injury.
Dr. Tanya Epley, a hospitalist at Vibra, was amazed and delighted when she began to notice small but significant improvements. Commenting on one particularly good visit with Jason, Dr. Epley noted, “His responses were delayed, but Jason sometimes spoke to me in full sentences.” The extra attention he received and the therapy services provided were melding together to change Jason’s path.
Jason still faces many challenges; the journey back from brain injury is a long one, sometimes taking up to two years. Now in a skilled nursing facility and with continued rehabilitation services, Jason is
expected to make ongoing improvements.
Touched both professionally and personally by Jason, Irina says warmly, “Jason is someone I will rembember the rest of my life.” As he departed Vibra, Jason squeezed Irina’s hand and said, “Thank you, friend.” Irina smiled, knowing that with the right attention, stimulation, and guidance, the neurological system is full of promise and surprises.Posted By