Jacob Rainey: An Inspiration After Amputation
I like to take some time over the Christmas holiday to recognize young people who have shown exceptional character, and today’s story about Jacob Rainey is the perfect story to lead this series.
Jacob Rainey, from Charlottesville, Virginia, was one of the top quarterback prospects for the state until a freak accident destroyed his football dreams. In a scrimmage between Rainey’s Woodberry Forest team and Mercersburg High on September 3, Jacob suffered a broken knee cap after being cleanly tackled by an opponent. He was taken to Fair Oaks Hospital, where further complications were discovered.
Jacob was transferred to Fairfax Inova Hospital, and it was here that doctors determined that the injury he had suffered had severed the main artery in his leg, requiring emergency vascular surgery. Jacob had developed a rare condition called compartment syndrome. This condition cut off the blood flow to part of his leg which led to the death of muscle tissue and nerves. It was this condition that left amputation of part of his leg the only option.
Jacob recalled, “The doctors told me a couple times that I wasn’t going to get amputated, so I was feeling pretty good until Friday. I don’t remember a lot, but I just remember them telling me it was going to get amputated and I was just like, `All right, well, that sucks.”‘
The hospital released a statement on September 10, saying, “Damage to the affected area was extensive, and doctors amputated the lower portion of Jacob’s leg.”
The whole team was devastated when they heard the news, and Coach Clint Alexander said, “Our players love Jacob very much and were very upset when it happened and were very worried about him after he was taken to the hospital. Our team is very close, one of the benefits of a boarding school football program. They get so much time together on dorm that the depth of the relationships they form is quite amazing. This has certainly helped our players understand how important it is to care about each other and attempt to overcome adversity together.”
In an effort to support and memorialize their missing leader, the team agreed to pass around Jacob’s jersey number each week, giving his best friend, Nate Ripper, the honor in the first week.
Now here is the most incredible part of this story: In spite of a live-changing tragedy, Jacob Rainey refuses to spend time thinking about what he has lost. Instead, he is the one inspiring his school and community to move on.
Jacob told the Associated Press, “I don’t know why me. I’ve never really asked myself that question. I think that would just make me feel sorry for myself, and that’s the last thing I want to do.
“I feel like if I was in their shoes, I’d feel awkward about it and stuff, like talking about it, so I kind of joke about it. I mean, it is what it is. I can’t change anything. There’s no point [complaining] about it, so I think it makes everyone more comfortable about it if I just joke about it like it’s alright. That’s how it’s always been.”
Jacob’s courage and unfailing optimism have touched the lives of many, both in and outside his community. Tim Tebow and Clay Matthews were so moved by this young man’s story that they asked Jacob to spend some time with them.
Jacob, who is 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, had a style that was often compared to Tebow, who said of him, “What an amazing kid and what an amazing outlook that he has. I’m so proud to have the opportunity to spend time with him and his family. We’re very excited about that.”
Jacob Rainey teaches us all a lesson concerning how to deal with adversity and shattered dreams. His courage and powerful personality will take him so much farther than his football prowess might have taken him. What he lost was tragic and so unfair, but it would have been a temporary gift. Bodies get old or injured, and a football career is fleeting; ask any pro-football player.
But courage, tenacity, willpower, positive leadership skills, an inspirational personality…these are the priceless gems that usually come with age and life’s experiences. These are the gifts that Jacob Rainey will never lose. These are the precious things that make Jacob a star no matter where his journey takes him.
God bless you, Jacob. You have touched my heart, and I am certain that you will continue to touch the hearts of others on your amazing journey.