Editor’s Note: Pronounced DOA on the scene of a drunk driver accident and covered with a sheet at the age of 15, Jason Roy of Houston, Texas, had to fight to let people know at that time he wasn’t dead. He was afraid he might be buried alive. Years later, Roy was in another horrific accident and covered with a sheet by first responders. Can you imagine the horror of being assumed dead – twice? Roy’s story of courage, fighting back and giving back demonstrates the indomitable human spirit to rise above any tragedy and turn it into a blessing.
On May 3, 2011, I was a policeman in Houston, Texas, and my partner of three years, Gerald Meola, and I were patrolling during the night shift in southeast Houston. The neighborhood where we were was known to have gangs and a lot of drug dealing taking place. I was driving, and Gerald was in the passenger seat. We had stopped earlier that night, found some drugs and took the suspects to jail.
About 2:30 am, we were back out on our beat, our lieutenant also was patrolling, and we just had pulled up to his car and told him, “Let’s go and find some bad guys.” We circled the block, and I stopped a car for a traffic violation – not turning on his turn signal when he made a turn. The vehicle pulled over and came to a stop.
As I started putting the car in park, the other vehicle took off. I was about halfway out of the car, after taking off my seatbelt, when the other driver gunned his car forward. I jumped into my patrol car and gave chase. The driver of the other car was running stop signs and red lights and driving very recklessly. But as a police officer, I couldn’t drive like that to make sure we and the other folks on the road were safe.
The person in the car we were chasing must have been traveling at least 100+ miles per hour. Once we had a clear stretch of road, I put the pedal down to try to catch up to him. Then on a two-lane, rural, winding road with no lights, I slowed down, and a voice told me to, “Put on your seatbelt.” Gerald already had on his seatbelt.
Only 10-15 seconds after snapping the seat buckle, our cruiser flipped over.
The individual we were chasing already had lost control and put his car in a ditch. The officer following us in the chase said our car flipped over 5-6 times before finally coming to a stop. I had an out-of-body experience. I knew I was alive, but that I was hurt and suffocating and in intense pain. I was 100 percent sure that I would die, I was in so much pain and I suddenly remembered the near-fatal accident I had when I was a teenager in 1994.
Jason Roy Dies For the First Time
A good friend and I were hit by a drunk driver in 1994 when I was in high school when my friend’s dad was driving us home from baseball practice. I was thrown out of the vehicle and was pronounced dead.
All I remember from that accident was when I woke up, I had a sheet over my face.
I knew wherever I was and whoever was there had assumed I was dead. I do remember struggling to pull the sheet off of me. Once the sheet was gone, the next thing I remember was being in the hospital.
After waking up, people started telling me what had happened, and that I had been pronounced dead on the scene. I had two broken legs, and my lung had collapsed. While recovering, I missed my sophomore year in high school and had to be home schooled. My friend also had some severe injuries and was in a coma for awhile. But everyone in that accident survived.
More on Jason Roy’s Second Accident
I mainly was thinking of my 7-month-old son, Jaden. As I lay in the ditch, I was afraid I would not go home to my son.
I couldn’t move, I was strapped in the driver’s seat with my seatbelt, I was bleeding, and I was suffocating. Gerald, my partner, told me later that he heard me pray, “Lord, save me. Don’t let me die like this. Don’t let me die like this.”
Next I told Gerald, “I’m having trouble breathing.” Gerald said he pictured himself delivering the eulogy at my funeral. He was also certain I was about to die.
The car door was wrapped around my neck, my left arm was dangling outside the car door, and I felt pretty sure I had lost my arm because I couldn’t feel it. “Hang in there. The ambulance is on the way,” I kept hearing people say.
Then the Houston Fire and Rescue Department arrived. To protect my face and the gaping wound in my head, they put a sheet over my head, and that’s when I panicked. I thought they assumed that I was dead, again. I reached down into my lungs to corral all the breath I had left, and I shouted, “I’m not dead! I’m not dead!” The rescue group assured me that they would cut me out of the wreck.
People in the crowd around the wreck site were saying, “He doesn’t look good. I don’t think he’s going to make it.” Later I asked one of the paramedics in the back of the ambulance if I was paralyzed, but he didn’t know.
I thought that even if I was paralyzed, at least I was alive. At the hospital, the doctors said I had five broken vertebrae in my back. They told me, “Things aren’t looking good.”
I didn’t know anything until I woke up three weeks later with tubes coming out of my body. Later, friends told me that they’d come to my hospital room and prayed over me, even though I was out of it.
At some level, I realized those people were trying to save my life and help put me back together again. They had to do what they did for me to be what I am now – alive and living life wide open. I was transferred to the rehab hospital – TIRR Memorial Hermann, where I’d also been after my first car wreck in 1994. This time I was very standoffish, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I had a lot to think about and cope with, since I didn’t know if I’d ever walk again.
Jason Roy’s Two Dreams
I’d already lost one of my life-long dreams – becoming a professional baseball player – and felt certain I would lose my second dream of being a police officer after my second wreck. Baseball had been my life as a teen, my ticket to a college scholarship and the key that opened the door to my playing baseball professionally.
After high school, I played at Texas Southern University and later played in the minor leagues for the Florida Marlins, today known as the Miami Marlins. I soon tired of not earning very much money and staying in a different motel room each night. I knew the time had come to move on to the career I wanted of being a police officer.
As a young person, I always enjoyed the TV show “Cops” and also a series of police officer movies about Houston, “City Under Siege” that included scenes and stories about undercover police officers buying drugs and arresting the drug dealers.
The inner city apartment complex where I’d been raised in Houston was dominated by street gangs and drug dealers. I saw first-hand the negative effects that crime had on a community. I was lucky enough never to want to join a gang and participate in any criminal activities in my neighborhood.
I returned to college after baseball and graduated from Texas Southern in 2003 with a degree in criminal justice. Then I went through the Houston Police Academy and graduated in 2007. I was assigned to the southwest Houston patrol, one of the hotbeds of drugs, which was the old neighborhood where I grew up. I patrolled all over the city of Houston but in 2008 transferred into the Gang Unit. The Gang Unit was basically a deterrent for crime happening in hot spots in Houston. In the Gang Unit was where I nearly died the second time.
Jason’s Recovery after the Second Accident
I worried what kind of future I’d have, who would raise my son, what type of father would I be, what kind of life would I have, and how could I make a living?
Any person who loses any part of his or her ability to function normally will be devastated and feel alone. You think no one else understands, and no one can help you. I went through severe depression in this new world I didn’t understand. I didn’t know how I could adapt to this new body I had. I wanted to get back out on the street and be a good police officer – doing what I loved. I had to be able to provide for my son.
I came to the conclusion that I was the only one who could get me out of this depression.
I decided I had to get up, and I had to get out of the rehab hospital and start moving. I never will forget when the doctor told my family, “Jason never may walk again.” This world-renowned surgeon was the same doctor who had operated on Congresswoman Gabby Gifford, so he had an abundance of experience.
Once I came to the realization that I couldn’t deal with me any longer, I gave everything to God and told Him, “I can’t do this by myself.” I was completely paralyzed from the neck down and was diagnosed as a paraplegic ASIA (American Spinal Injury Association) A.
Spinal cord injuries are often described as ASIA A, B, C, D and E, to designate the level of an injury. ASIA A meant I had the least amount of function from the neck down. A few weeks later when I was doing everything I could do mentally to make my body move, I saw my right foot quiver.
I told myself, “If my right foot can move,” something I’d been trying to do for weeks and weeks, “then my entire body can move.” Each day I tried harder and harder, and each day that foot moved some more. I went for my arms next and finally moved my right arm a little.
Day-after-day I worked as hard as possible, and at physical therapy, I’d push myself almost to the point of exhaustion to make my dead body parts come back to life. As I worked, I prayed. I learned you didn’t really know who you were until you got into a situation where you had to determine a way to try to become who you wanted to be.
I realized that when you went through adversity, trials and tribulations, you learned who you really were, and how strong or how weak you were.
After 4 years of intensive physical therapy, I have a lot of function back today but not 100 percent. My right arm and right leg are fine, but the left side of my body is still affected, although I can walk.
Toward the end of my rehab, I had a crazy therapist who told me, “Jason, you need to run a 5K.” I thought that therapist had lost his mind, since I just was trying to learn to walk, and I’d never run a 5K (3.1 miles) in my life, even before my accident. But he kept pushing me as far as I could go physically and focus on running a 5K. We started intensively working on building up my stamina and strength. I ran my first 5K in 2012 in 43 minutes. Although I was slow, I finished, which made me very happy.
Of course, not everyone who has a spinal cord injury is as fortunate as me, because every spinal cord injury is different.
From a medical standpoint, if you look at my injury, there was no way I should be able to do the things that I’m doing now. I’ve got so many rods, plates and screws in my neck that on an x-ray I look like an erector set. I broke my back from C3 to C7, and I’m extremely fortunate to have the mobility I now have.
Jason Goes from Zero 2 100
I medically retired from the Houston police department in 2012. Since then, I’ve written a book titled, “From Zero 2 a Hundred: Finding My Purpose Through My Pain.” When most people hear the words “from zero 2 a hundred,” they associate those words with a race car that’s sitting still at zero and then accelerates to 100 mph.
My zero was when I was paralyzed from the neck down, because I didn’t think I had anything left.
The 100 represents where I am today. I’m not 100-percent physically, but I am back to living life to the fullest. I’m still in physical therapy 3 days per week, and I speak to as many young people, church groups and patients at hospitals as I can, while raising my son, Jaden.
When I was in the hospital at TIRR, I met many young people who had spinal cord injuries and who wanted to come into my room to talk to the police officer who had a spinal cord injury like theirs. We shared our stories about how we were injured.
These kids were being released from the hospital sooner than I thought they should be, because they didn’t have the financial resources to continue their rehabilitation programs. Many of their families were from small towns that didn’t have the medical resources available to them that we had in Houston.
So, I made a promise to myself that once I got on my feet again, I’d start some type of program to help these young people. My Zero 2 a Hundred Foundation, which provides financial resources and information to ensure that children and adolescents receive quality rehabilitation, is the result.
You can purchase Jason Roy’s book at the Barnes and Nobles website http://bit.ly/1IIEVPv, Amazon http://amzn.to/1De59El or Roy’s website at www.zero2ahundred.com. The eBook sells for $6.50; the soft cover book is $13.95, and the hardcover is $28.95.
About the Author: John E. Phillips
For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at www.johninthewild.com.