Jesse Leaman

L ightning Leaman; that’s what his mates on East Stroudsburg’s soccer team called him. He could out-sprint and out-maneuver defenders, steal the ball from them, and net it before anyone figured out what happened. A lean 5-foot-7, with piercing blue eyes, and a remarkable shock of golden locks, the 18- year-old lived in his body full-time, and in his brain only when he had to; truth be told, he didn’t have to try too hard to excel at anything, even in pulling top grades and honor awards.

When Jesse said he was going to jump, no one tried to talk him out of it. Why should they? They didn’t doubt his ability to stick the landing, even when he announced he was going to an attempt a front flip. He’d make the right moves; that’s what Lightning Leaman was known for.

Jesse would later learn that when he hit the ground head-first, the impact obliterated his fourth cervical vertebra. He had shattered both C3 and C5, and his lungs collapsed from the shimmying his spine took. At Allentown’s Lehigh Valley Hospital, the ER doctors reinflated his lungs, fused bone from his hip to his broken neck, and encased him in a halo vest, which they attached to his head by driving lag screws into his skull.

For now, he lay in the snow, preoccupied with the grim business of drawing breath. His family and friends urged him to hang on. When the paramedics finally arrived, Jesse let go, and his world went dark.

Read Jesse’s Story.

Jesse, film II from Reynolds School of Journalism on Vimeo.

 

Jesse, film I from Reynolds School of Journalism on Vimeo.

 

 

 

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