On March 17, Laura Grant received a life-changing phone call. Her husband, Jon, had been in a car accident and he was in a coma with a serious brain injury.
“I was in shock and totally confused about what I had just been told,” Grant, 32, told TODAY, via email. “For some reason, I asked my mom 'What do I do?' She said 'Get dressed and get to the hospital.'”
Laura didn't know what to expect — Jon was a Navy SEAL who had been on three overseas tours and worked as a combat medic instructor at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. The accident left him in a completely different condition.
Jon, 36, experienced a diffuse axonal injury (DAI), which occurs when the brain aggressively jostles back and forth in the skull. This causes lesions and kills brain cells. Jon was in a coma and the outcome seemed bleak. Ninety percent of survivors of DAI remain unconscious, and the 10 percent who do wake experience significant impairment.
Yet just 17 days after his injury, Jon squeezed Laura’s hand. But, he remained unconscious. In early April, he moved to a program that helps unconscious patients wake. Two months after his accident on May 16, Jon woke up, though recovery has been slow.
“I was told in neuro ICU if Jon made it, the recovery process would be marathon not a sprint,” Laura said.
But recently, Jon made a huge improvement in his recovery when he stood, embraced and kissed his wife for the first time since the accident. She recorded it and shared it on Instagram. It quickly went viral with 3.4 million people viewing it.
“The moment to me was like our first dance at our wedding,” she said. “I knew that all Jon wanted was me by his side through all of this. That he loved me so deeply and was so thankful for our bond which has grown even more.”
Jon has aphasia, which means he struggles to understand speech and communicate. Laura taught him to say "I love you" in sign language, but he mostly communicates by nodding.
Physically, Jon is making progress. It now only takes one person, not three, to help him sit up on a table. He breathes unassisted, eats pureed food without a feeding tube and had been attempting to stand. He struggled with it, but two weeks ago, the therapists believed Jon was strong enough that Laura could help him from his wheelchair.
“Jon had been practicing standing, but not until this point was it safe for me to jump in,” she said.
She feels grateful she captured the moment and is still reeling from the positive responses to the video.
“I am speechless,” she said. “Many people have shared that they are either going through the same thing or have gone through similar situations.”
While the couple, who has been married for five years, has a home in Raleigh, North Carolina, Laura has been living in a hotel near Jon’s rehab facility in Richmond, Virginia. She has been unable to work as a Pilates instructor during this time as she focuses on Jon’s recovery. She started a Go Fund Me to help with Jon’s medical expenses.
While the past several months have been difficult, she feels the love she shares with Jon keeps them both strong.
“I have grown to truly understand what is important in life,” she said. “We must believe and trust that God will guide and protect us through the easy and hard times.”