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Waccamaw High: Hit-and-run victim on the road to recovery

By Roger Greene
Coastal Observer

Jasonn Russell measures his recovery process incrementally.

Regaining his strength and reestablishing himself in academic, athletic and social circles at Waccamaw High School are processes Russell is driven to master.

His determination has been evident, moving from being totally dependent on others after a hit-and-run accident in August that nearly claimed his life, to resuming his studies as a junior at Waccamaw High.

Along the way he has garnered support from family, friends, teammates and those who heard about his accident on the news or who visited the Facebook page “Get Well Soon Jasonn Russell.”

Being a teenager, there are times when Russell downplays the significance of his continuing recovery. At others, he is fully aware of how fortunate he is to be alive.

“I’m just thankful and grateful for all the support I’ve gotten,” Russell said. “Everything that has been done has meant a lot to me.”

“There are times when I think Jasonn doesn’t realize how serious this has been,” said Russell’s mother, Olivia. “He is an inspiration to our family. There are times when I’ll be doing something and I’ll feel like quitting. Then, I’ll think about Jasonn and tell myself that if he’s not giving up, I’m not giving up, either.”

Russell was walking with friends along the shoulder of Litchfield Drive on Aug. 28 when he was struck by an automobile around 11 p.m. The accident occurred between Sportsman Drive and the bridge over Clubhouse Creek and the impact knocked Russell into the marsh.

“I don’t remember much about the accident,” Russell said. “I remember passing by a gift shop, going a little bit down the road, then turning around. After that, everything goes blank.”

Russell was initially taken to Waccamaw Community Hospital before being transferred by helicopter to the Medical University of South Carolina with injuries that included broken ribs, brain trauma and a chest wound.

The outpouring of support in the days following the accident from the Waccamaw Neck community was overwhelming. It helped sustain Russell during his hospitalization, especially when doing the most basic things required assistance.

“I couldn’t get to the shower or bathroom without help,” Russell said. “They were right by my bed and it was frustrating that I couldn’t get that far. I couldn’t walk on my own without using a walker. And when I was using the walker, I had to have a belt and other people supporting me because I couldn’t really stand on my own.”

By the middle of September, Russell was out of the hospital and visiting his teammates on the Waccamaw High football team.

A defensive end, he had missed the Warriors’ first two games of the season due to tendonitis. He was scheduled see his first playing time against Carvers Bay on Sept. 3, a week following the accident.

“It was a difficult time for our team following Jasonn’s accident,” Warriors coach Tyronne Davis said. “We were all worried about him. It lifted everyone’s spirits when he was able to come visit us. It was great to see him.”

One of the first things Russell did upon returning home was forgo using the walker in favor of a cane. It was more than a symbolic gesture as it marked another step forward.

“He was determined not to use the walker anymore,” Olivia Russell said. “He said it was just getting in his way.”

“I wanted to do things on my own,” Jasson said. “The cane made it seem like I was more able to do that. There was a lot that I couldn’t do, but I felt good when I was able to move around a little bit without needing a belt or someone else to support me.”

Having realized how fragile life can be, Russell also began to take less for granted.

“The first time I saw my dogs after getting back from the hospital I started to cry,” Russell said. “I guess you don’t always remember how much you miss little things like that.”

“One of the things he was upset about was that he hadn’t told anyone goodbye before the accident,” Olivia Russell said. “That is heartbreaking for me because I don’t think that is something a teenager should have to worry about. He was always good about telling everyone how much he cared about them, but now he’s even more so.”

Jasonn lost close to 30 pounds during the ordeal, dropping down to 155 pounds. He has gradually worked his way back up to 168 and is regaining his strength. He returned to Waccamaw High shortly after Halloween.

Being able to manage the pain and difficulties caused by the accident have become a routine part of his life.

His long-range goal is to return to the football field in time for his senior year. But given everything he has gone through, and continues to experience, there is some trepidation about that on his family’s part.

“He wants so badly to get back to the way he was before,” Olivia said. “He took so much pride in how hard he’d worked to get ready for football last year.

“We don’t want to become too overprotective and take things from him, but it is hard for us sometimes. I don’t know how it could be any other way after what has happened.”

But before hopefully being able to get back on the football field, Russell has a more immediate task to focus on.

“My parents and I have a deal that if I make the AB honor roll, they’ll buy me a car,” Russell said. “I’d like something that I’ll have an easy time getting my surfboard into. I love surfing and hope I’ll be able to go again soon. Like a lot of things, it’s something I’ve missed.”

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