Tuesday, 12:01 p.m.—Grady Hospital, Atlanta. A group of people gathered around a hospital bed and sang, “Happy Birthday.” The beeping of the life-support machines accompanied them.
This is the burn unit, where they send bad cases.
In the bed: Jordan Sims. His family hardly recognizes him. He doesn’t look much like the Jordan they remember. He’s a burned-up, bloody, purple mess.
It happened on a Sunday night in Valley, Alabama. He lost control of his car, colliding headfirst into a tree. The vehicle caught fire— Jordan pinned inside. Nearby neighbors doused it with residential garden hoses. Emergency responders had to cut his body from the front seat, the life-flight helicopter carried him to Atlanta.
One all-night surgery later, here Jordan lays. Eyes taped shut. His liver has taken a beating. His arms and legs have the worst kinds of burns you could have. He has too many bone fractures to count, his stomach is wide open, and they amputated his right leg.
Now for the bad news.
Doctors found two fractured vertebrate and enough fluid on his brain to fill a watermelon. Not only that, but his kidneys are a wreck.
They tried to wake him, to inspect the cranial damage. No luck. Jordan was in a coma.
He had two more surgeries. Both of which lasted longer than some weekend vacations. They drilled a hole in his skull, installed metal rods in his spine, removed dead muscle, put him on dialysis. They still weren’t sure he’d make it.
His family watched and waited for something. Anything. Even the twitch of a finger would’ve been reason enough to throw a party.
Friends visited, brought flowers, told Jordan all the usual things said in hospitals. Like, “Keep fighting, buddy,” or, “C’mon, Jordan, we love you.”
Whether he could hear them, nobody knew.
And so, his family sings at the tops of their lungs. They’re letting him know that, even though they can’t do anything but hope for God’s attention, they’re here. They survive on vending-machine junk food while running up mountains of debt on million-dollar surgeries. They’re sleeping upright in uncomfortable chairs, praying with sour stomachs. Taking turns holding his limp hand. Twenty-four-seven. They’ll do this forever if they have to.
But they won’t have to. Because a few days ago, Jordan turned his head toward his mama and opened his eyes.
If you’ve ever wanted to believe in something, try believing in this kid. Even if just for today.
Happy twenty-first birthday, Jordan.