THE PLYMOUTH REVIEW
Thursday, July 2, 1970
"Jimmy Looks Ahead"
By: Robert S. Johanson
A tanned, muscular, brown haired Plymouth youth lay strapped to a special hospital bed this week.
Paralyzed from the neck down, James Hemauer, 15, Plymouth, spoke in a whisper and thought about his future.
The youth, a handsome physical specimen six feet tall and about 180 pounds, apparently tore and severely damaged the nerves that control most of his muscles when he dived into a pond near Elkhart Lake last week, hit bottom and broke his neck.
When he struck, his head was smashed forward and down, crushing the fourth vertebra, the small bones in the spinal column. If a higher vertebra had been involved, he probably would have lost the ability to breathe at all.
As it is, he can breathe only by use of his diaphragm, a muscle separating chest from abdomen. He can not cough nor can he move his shoulders, arms or legs.
His head is held by traction tongs. He can move his head slightly sideways. His voice is weak, but his appetite has been good.
And his spirits were lifted Sunday when two of the boys, Randy Kastelic and Terry Schram, involved in his rescue visited him briefly at St. Joseph's hospital, Milwaukee.
His parents fear that only a miracle will bring back the use of his hands or arms and they are praying for at least that much.
A part of the vertebra which was not crushed has slipped back into place, x-rays showed, and this has given the family some hope although doctors have not been optimistic.
The full extent of the nerve damage will not be known until swelling has gone down, a nurse said.
Dr. George A. Berglund, a Milwaukee neurosurgeon, did not give the family much encouragement. He is the youth's physician.
Another neurosurgeon explained to The Review that when the nerves are cut or torn, recovery is virtually impossible and that even when sewed together, the nerves do not usually function again. If the nerves are only pinched and not extremely damaged, there is more chance of muscular recovery, he added.
James, one of nine children, is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Hemauer; 350 N. Stafford St. The father is an agriculture instructor for Lakeshore Technical Institute, Sheboygan.
The mother, who accompanied James to the hospital after the accident on July 1, is staying almost constantly by her son's bedside. She can assist the regular nurses in keeping a watch on the youth, in case he should choke, for example.
She returned to Plymouth for a rest this week while other members of the family stayed at the youth's side.
Robert, the father, knows something of the travail his son is going through. Hemauer, 51, was one of 15 children who grew up in Stockbridge. When Hemauer was only a junior in high school, such as Jim would have been next fall, he was in an automobile accident that killed his brother Joseph and took away Robert's left leg near the hip.
He fought despondency and learned to live with an artificial limb. "I know exactly what Jimmy is going through," the father said this week.
Jimmy, a sound capable student, was a New Holstein High School halfback last year as a sophomore, an outstanding weight lifter and a member of the track team. An injury sidelined him during part of the football season but the school had great hopes for him in the future and hated to see him leave when his family moved to Plymouth this year.
The father had been a vocational agriculture teacher at New Holstein from 1943-69.
Teachers at New Holstein described James as a "fine school citizen" and thoroughly normal, fun-loving boy.
He worked this summer at Edgar Schroeder's farm, east of Plymouth.
This week, his father said the family has been forced to recognize that Jimmy may never recover the use of his muscles.
It would be "nothing less than a miracle," Hemauer said, if his son even gets the use of his arms, according to what doctors have told the parents.
James was first taken to Plymouth hospital and then to St. Joseph's, recognized for its neurosurgery accomplishments.
The youth was in an intensive care unit until Monday when he was moved to the sixth floor rehabilitation area.
The family is deeply appreciative of the warm, sympathetic reaction of the people in Plymouth, the father said, even though they have lived in Plymouth but a short time.
And he was most thankful for the quick reaction of Randy Kastelic, who helped pull the boy from the water. Hemauer said, "Randy told me, `All I did was what I was taught in school.'"
To Hemauer, a longtime teacher, this touched his heart as little else could--that Kastelic had learned the fundamentals of swimming and lifesaving with the aid of high school instruction.
The road ahead is long and tough, Hemauer noted sadly, but the family will do its best.
"Ours has been a large and wonderful family," he said, "and we have been blessed with good health.
"But with a large family, I knew that sooner or later the odds meant that one of our children would probably become involved in some kind of accident."
Attending a National Education Assn. convention in San Francisco when the accident happened, Hemauer said he was not, therefore, completely surprised to get a call that night from a neighbor, Plymouth Patrolman Peter Douma.
Hemauer caught the first flight home from San Francisco and was at the hospital Thursday afternoon.
This week, the family set about to reorganize their lives to cope with a tragedy.