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JACE REED: ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY 'IT'S NOT THAT FUN'
Virg Foss, Herald Staff Writer
Jace Reed is two-thirds of the man he used to be, down to a skin-and-bones 145 pounds from a rock-solid 215 that he was about three months ago.
But he's on the road to recovery a miracle in itself. The UND hockey player has endured three organ transplants and six other surgeries since he nearly died from exercise hyperthermia during a 10-kilometer dryland training run on Sept. 15 in Grand Forks.
His last surgery was a second liver transplant on Nov. 1. The first one, done in a rush just to keep him alive, eventually failed.
His voice now is raspy, somewhat monotone, and soft. And lying flat in a hospital bed, his hair trimmed close, his body all skin and bones, he bears a striking resemblance to photos of Jewish prisoners in World War II German concentration camps.
Unlike many of those prisoners, there's life ahead for Reed. And the sooner he can get on with it, the happier he'll be.
"The last place I want to be is in a hospital again." Reed said. "I've been here so long I could probably doctor myself."
Reed has little memory of what's happened to him since Sept. 15, and it's probably just as well.
What happened is that because of a lack of fluids in his system, his body overheated dramatically and reacted by shutting down his major organs.
Reed was only 200 yards from finishing the 6.2-mile Run the Red road race. After that, his life has been mostly a blur. "I remember seeing another teammate in front of me, and wanting to catch him," Reed said. "After that, people said I sat down on a curb, but I don't remember."
Nor does he remember his trip by ambulance to The united Hospital in Grand Forks, hospital visits from teammates, an air ambulance flight to Rochester, or his endless trips to the operating room here.
"I don't remember anything for almost a month after this happened," Reed said. "I remember parts, like I thought were dreams, but they actually happened. But I don't remember too much. It's weird I can't really explain it."
Road to recovery
His prospects for recovery now are good, though he faces a lifetime of taking medication to prevent his body from rejecting his transplanted organs.
Within a week, he'll likely be transferred to St. Mary's Hospital here, where he'll undergo a minimum of two weeks of extensive rehabilitation. If that goes well, he could be home in Grand Rapids, Minn., by Christmas.
It's too early to speculate if he'll ever return to UND as a student, or play any type of sports again.
"Doctors told me only that I can't play football, that I can't take any contact to my liver," Reed said. "I don't know if the he realized that hockey's pretty tough, too.
"I don't want take a shot to my liver and risk going through this again." Reed said." It's not that fun.
Bald is beautiful
Doctors in Rochester needed to cut into Jace Reed's head in order to put in a shunt to relieve pressure on his brain. To do that required shaving off the hair on his head.
Days later, Jace asked the nurses for a mirror, so that he could see what he looked like. What he saw shocked him. He looked so bad that he didn't want anyone to see him.
His girl friend, Andee Kleffman of Grand Rapids, normally has long, black hair that goes almost to her waist. When she heard of how Jace felt, she made a decision before she went to visit him. She had her hair cut nearly as short as Jace's.
"She didn't want him to fee he was the only one who had to grow back his hair," Janis Reed said.
When Andee Kleffman walked into Jace's hospital room with her locks shorn, Jace didn't' say anything. He just smiled.
What Andee Kleffman said is this. Short hair is in Jace."
A documented blur
Though the last 75 days have pretty much been a blur to Reed, they aren't to his parents. Harlan and Janis Reed.
In particular, they're vivid in the mind of Janis Reed, who has been with Jace, often around the clock, every day, since he collapsed.
She's kept a daily diary of what's happened to her son, and her feelings through it all.
"I've got enough material so that I could probably write a book someday," she says. It helps me to write it down. It's been an awful hurt."
Some day, she'll share her diary with her son, "I told him he can read it when he wants to read about what really happened, because he can't remember a lot."
She reads the diary often "I've read back to Day 1 when they said he should be getting better and he kept getting worse," she said.
"I've read back only once the part about the day of his first transplant surgery," she says. "I don't like reading that page. Besides, the writing is a little shaky."
Harlan Reed has only glanced at the diary. "I read the part where she said she got left here by herself, and she got scared to death," he said." So we've tried to have someone else here with her."
The family includes daughters Melissa, 34 and Jodi 32, sons Rian 25, and Jace 20.
It's been a nightmare for the entire family. There were the initial concern if he'd live. "I thought that many times." Harlan Reed said.
I thought he'd ever make it when we flew down on the plane (Oct. 4) that day, from Grand Forks," Janis Reed said. "His color was bad and he couldn't breathe."
Janis Reed arrives at Methodist Hospital at 8 every morning, and stays until late at night. She's his constant companion, as close to him as the sheets on his bed.
"I can't leave until he's ready to come home again," she says, tears welling in her eyes, her voice breaking with emotion.
Harlan Reed has worked just one week at his job as a supervisor at a paper company in Grand Rapids, since the accident. "I took six weeks off to hunt and fish this fall, and finish the new house we're building. The house is still waiting," he said.
"So's the hunting and fishing," Janis Reed adds.
Janis Reed, who decorates cakes out of her home as her work, has not worked since that day.
"It's been such an ordeal," Harlan Reed said. "It's like Jace feels good for two days, then he's down for 10."
Janis Reed wonders why this happened to her son, who was in the best shape of his life and perhaps ready for extended playing time after seeing limited duty his first two seasons with the Sioux.
"He left home with the best attitude he's ever had." Harlan Reed said.
"We'll probably never know why this happened," Janis Reed said. "There must be a reason for it, I suppose. He was really pushing himself, to show how good he could be this year."
A canceled visit
Gino Gasparini had arranged a bus trip to Rochester last Saturday for his hockey team so that Jace Reed could visit with his teammates for the first time since the run.
A winter storm in the area forced Gasparini to cancel the trip, one that Jace Reed was very much looking forward to.
"I think it'll be pretty sad," said Janis Reed, when the trip was still on," Jace will be anxious to see them, but I think they'll be shocked when they do see him."
The reunion never happened.
Early in his recovery, Jace Reed wouldn't watch hockey on the TV set in his room on the fifth floor of the hospital. He did watch the Twins win the World Series, but he blanked out hockey completely.
Now he's begun to follow the progress of his Sioux again. "It doesn't seem like they're doing so well," he said. "But they've got a lot of young players, and they'll come back.
Jace Reed will come back, too. Maybe not back to what he was, but he will come back.
After a long streak of bleak news, the prognosis is now good. They say Jace should be able to lead a fairly healthy life, if he takes his medication, morning and night every day," Janis Reed said. "A new lifestyle."
At first, Jace Reed talked about returning to UND in January, but he got worse before he got better. "I'm hoping he can get back to school next fall," Harlan Reed says now.
Janis Reed said that Jace had never been sick a day in his life, and never even took aspiring for a headache." He doesn't like foreign objects in his body," she said.
He does now. A donated liver and kidney from others who died are what keeps him alive. "We're lucky he's alive," Janis Reed said." Now we have to have faith and keep going on."
Cards and letters can be addressed to: Jace Reed c/o Methodist Hospital 2-1 West Center Street Rochester, Minn. 55902
Grand Forks Herald, December 3, 1991