On the evening of April 29, 2017, after a long day of flight training, a young naval aviator was walking to dinner with several shipmates. When a drunk driver slammed into the Sailors from behind, LTJG Jordan Lo took the brunt of the impact.
“I was in a coma for three days,” Lo explained. “My medical prognosis was slim.”
In fact, doctors told Lo’s family that they didn’t expect him to survive and recommended shutting off life support. “Mrs. Lo said no,” recalled Amanda Shadden, Relief Services Assistant at Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Pensacola, who worked closely with the family after the accident. “She knew her son wanted to live, and boy does he ever.”
Not only did he want to live, but he wanted to return to serving in the Navy.
“I’ve had to relearn everything,” he said “I had to relearn the use of all my muscles on the left side of my body. I had to regain functionality that you learn automatically when you’re a little kid. I’ve been fortunate to gain it all back.”
While Lo has put in the long hours and incredible effort in speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy, he credits the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society with providing the financial, emotional, and medical support his family needed to help him through the recovery process.
“During the initial week after the accident, the Society was there for my family. Arbutus Mullins, the visiting nurse, was there to explain to my parents what was happening and to be a shoulder to lean on,” Lo said.
Amanda Shadden worked with the Casualty Assistance Calls Officer on Naval Air Station Pensacola to help arrange transportation and lodging for Lo’s family to fly in from Arizona to be with him. “We gave them a bridge loan to cover expenses until financial assistance from the military was ready,” Shadden said. “We figured out what money they needed for food, shelter, gas, and other necessities while they were here so they could have money right away and could pay it back when they received the per diem reimbursement from the Navy.”
NMCRS also made arrangements for Jordan’s parents to stay at Martha’s Vineyard, a house in Pensacola set up specifically for families whose loved ones are in critical care at nearby hospitals.
“The Society’s assistance to my parents enabled them to be by my side after the accident, which optimized my recovery and gave me the ability to make the strides that I have made,” Lo explained.
Mullins was in frequent contact with the family as they navigated Lo’s rehabilitation. “Arbutus was a source of great emotional and physical support,” Lo said. “She treated us like she would care for her own family, and always thought outside of the box to ensure that we were taken care of. She came to the hospital quite often and was readily available to comfort and provide assistance, genuine qualities that represent the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society well.”
“Over the course of this month, Jordan’s road to recovery was nothing short of miraculous,” Mullins recalled.
After the first few weeks of recovery in Pensacola, Lo was medevac’d in June to the Palo Alto Poly Trauma Center in California for inpatient rehabilitation. After a few months of therapy there, he was transferred to Naval Medical Center San Diego to continue rehabilitation on an outpatient basis.
For the past two years, Lo’s mother has kept in touch with Mullins to provide updates on her son’s progress. “Jordan has worked tirelessly to recover,” Mullins said. “His desire every day was to return to the Navy. I have never seen anyone with such a passion to serve in the Navy. Jordan wore his uniform every day to physical therapy! He is the proudest Sailor I have ever met.”
“The doctors and therapists have told me, ‘Before we met you, we didn’t know it was possible to get this much function back.’” Lo said his treatment and hard work have paid off.
“Essentially 80% of my recovery efforts have been fueled by my desire to serve and return to flight training. The other 20% is because of my friends and family. They’ve gone through enough already. I’ve heard that my parents were given the option of pulling the plug on me. The doctors thought my life was over. I’m doing this work for them, for the Navy, and for myself to return to flight training and fulfill my career ambitions. The last thing I want is to serve for two years and let a drunk driver take away everything I’ve worked for.”
In May, Lo and his mother visited NMCRS Pensacola to see RSA Amanda Shadden and Visiting Nurse Arbutus Mullins. “Jordan was absolutely amazing,” Mullins said. “If I had not seen first-hand this young man at the hospital on life support, it would have been hard to believe his story. His biggest desire was still to be found fit for the Navy and he continued to work extremely hard to accomplish this major goal.”
Jordan Lo was declared fit for duty on May 21, able to return to flight school and continue on his path to becoming a Naval aviator.
“We are forever grateful for the men and women who have been there for us during the turbulent times,” Lo said. “I’ve had plenty of times where people gave me a chance to give up, but I chose not to. It’s incredible how support lifts you up and gives you the encouragement to keep fighting. Never lose sight of hope and believe that you can achieve any pinnacle, even when it may seem that others do not believe in you. Believing in yourself will allow yourself to tap into the strength that you never even knew you had.”
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso