Omaha native Jason Leuck was used to facing challenges as a self-employed business owner of construction equipment who dealt with customers in multiple states. But, his biggest challenge came after a car accident resulted in paralysis for Jason and landed him in a wheelchair.
Jason, 27, rolled his Jeep Cherokee on a dimly lit road in west Omaha the evening of March 2. He was thrown into the back seat and knocked unconscious. A motorist called 911 and he was transferred to Creighton Medical Center where he spent five days in the ICU.
Ashlee Nielsen, Jason’s long-time girlfriend, explained she was driving a friend home when she got a call on her cell phone. “My caller ID said it was Jason, but when I picked up, it was a sheriff informing me of the accident,” said Ashlee. She remembers making a u-turn and heading straight for the hospital. “I had to identify Jason because they listed him in a ‘John Doe’ book for unidentified patients,” Ashlee recalled.
The impact of the crash left Jason with multiple injuries including a broken clavicle, ribs and complete spinal cord fracture of his T-4 vertebrae resulting in paralysis. He also suffered some memory loss and distorted vision.
Jason transferred to Nebraska Medical Center on March 8 for spinal fusion surgery on his damaged vertebrae. The next six weeks he spent recuperating weren’t without setbacks. At one point, he had to be revived in his room. “Jason was so fortunate; he almost died that day,” said Ashlee, who’s studying to be a registered nurse.
The trauma doctors realized he wasn’t ready to tackle acute rehabilitation and sent him to Select Specialty Hospital. After regaining his strength, he began to consider his therapy options. Several of the staff had previously worked at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital and Jason felt encouraged by their stories of patients’ outcomes. He made the move to Madonna at the end
“I was nervous and scared at first, but all the staff here reassured me,” Jason shared. He set realistic goals to get back to his daily routine and be independent. He felt the toughest part of therapy was learning to do transfers to and from his wheelchair. Jason kept working hard in therapy, knowing it was essential for him to master.
“Jason is a very determined person,” Ashlee shared. She had no doubt in his abilities. “The skills I learned in physical and occupational therapy were so valuable to me,” said Jason. Ashlee added that she “has seen huge changes in Jason since he’s been at Madonna.”
Brooke Murtaugh, occupational therapist, worked on Jason’s distance vision and visual acuity. She explained the collision affected his peripheral vision as well. The prism glasses were introduced in therapy and helped address these issues. His reading glasses will be fitted with a special film to simulate the prisms for use at home.
Jason discharges from Madonna on July 11 and is anxious to move into the new house in west Omaha he designed with Ashlee. Adaptations were made to widen doorways, install ramps and wood floors to accommodate
Reflecting back, Jason said the accident has made him a better person. “It’s caused me to reevaluate who and what is most valuable in my life,” he said. Jason is ready to get back to work. The challenges of negotiating with his heavy equipment business won’t seem near as daunting now compared to what he’s conquered in his personal life.