A traumatic brain injury permanently upended the lives of Jacob and Amanda Sattler.
The unexpected event has forced the Lyons couple to fight back from months of strenuous therapy, memory loss, and uncertainty, and to reach toward the help of a rehabilitative facility in Minnesota. Now they’re hoping the public will lend a hand in making that happen.
“We want to still try to have the life that we wanted to build before,” Amanda Sattler said. “I am so filled with hope that this place was legitimately meant to be in our lives. There were just too many signs to argue with that.”
It was Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015, when Jacob Sattler developed flu-like symptoms that persisted over the holiday weekend. He returned home the following Monday from his job as a truck driver for the former Eagleview Logistics with a deviated right eye that caused him to experience double vision. As the evening progressed, his speech slurred and he found it difficult to express himself.
His wife of two years, Amanda Sattler, took Jacob to Promedica Flower Hospital in Sylvania, Ohio, where he underwent an extensive examination.
“They ran every single test that you can imagine,” Sattler said. “He had an intense work-up of everything.”
The following day Jacob, who had just turned 34 years old, was diagnosed with a tumor on his pituitary gland, located under the brain and behind the sinus cavity. After another overnight stay he was transferred to The Toledo Hospital, to be examined by its neurosurgery providers. They performed more tests and, given the large size of the tumor, scheduled Jacob for a craniotomy, which would remove the growth more safely through his skull.
The surgery lasted about 5 1/2 hours, and when it was done the neurosurgeon had successfully removed the benign tumor. Over the next several days Jacob Sattler’s condition appeared to improve, although the tumor caused permanent blindness in his right eye.
Then Jacob grew lethargic, and his wife became concerned. “He wasn’t really responding. You could just tell he was off,” she said. She voiced her fears to Jacob’s nurses, who said they’d keep an eye on him.
Sattler and Jacob’s parents, Mike and Randy May Sattler of Swanton, returned to their homes for the night.
The next morning, Jan. 6, at about 5 a.m., Amanda Sattler received a phone call from the hospital. Jacob had been moved to the intensive care unit. When she arrived, the neurosurgeon told her Jacob had been found unresponsive and placed on a ventilator. He had suffered a stroke, his brain was swollen, and he was in a comatose state.
Family members who gathered were told he had been doing well 24 hours earlier. The neurosurgeon said Jacob’s stroke could have been caused by medication but the exact reason was unknown.
“There was no idea what was going on,” Amanda Sattler said, adding that the news was so devastating “I don’t remember much from that point on.”
So she and their families waited as over the next eight weeks Jacob convalesced at a long-term care facility in Toledo. He responded periodically to doctors’ commands, then slowly woke over time and began communicating.
He was transported back to Promedica Flower Hospital in late March, where he spent the next five months undergoing therapy in the facility’s inpatient rehabilitation center. “He had to relearn how to do everything, from eating to talking to walking,” his wife said.
Sattler said Jacob remembers none of the experience, since parts of his brain were damaged by the pressure it underwent during his comatose state. The couple was eventually told Jacob suffered the most brain damage in his right frontal lobe, which regulates everything from personality traits to logic, reasoning, and communication skills.
“It controls a lot of what makes us who we are,” Sattler said.
It was also determined that Jacob had lost about seven years’ worth of long-term memories. “That was pretty much the entire time that we were together at that point,” she said.
Fortunately, Jacob did recognize his wife and remembered they were romantically involved, although he was unsure to what extent. He also knew that he loved her.
“But that’s all he knew. He couldn’t remember everything else,” Sattler said. Jacob even failed to recognize their home when he returned there Aug. 6, although he did remember their pet cats, Fancy and Bella.
Sattler never worried that Jacob had forgotten her.
“The day that he went into the coma…I went in there and I gave him a pep talk. The gist was that I loved him…and that he needed to sleep as long as he needed so he could come back to me. I told him, ‘I love you.’ And he squeezed my hand. And that’s all I needed.”
Now suffering as well from short-term memory loss, Jacob has continued therapy with Amanda, who provides full-time care. Over time he has been relearning simple tasks and “he’s made a lot of progress compared to what the outcome the could have been,” she said.
Last fall, the couple was informed of The Functional Neurology Center of Minnetonka, Minn., by Christine Smallman, whose child had attended school with Jacob. The center provides complete evaluations and customized eight-day programs for victims of traumatic brain injury that can aid in their recovery.
Smallman introduced the Sattlers to a friend who was treated at the center after receiving a traumatic brain injury due to domestic violence. “She came back a different person,” she said.
Following Amanda Sattler’s discussions with the friend and the center’s patient coordinator, Jacob has been scheduled for treatment between April 13-22. Health insurance won’t cover the $20,000 cost, so a GoFundMe account has been established to help with expenses.Other fundraisers are also in the works.
A sales marketing and promotions staff member at the Swanton Enterprise and Fulton County Expositor, Smallman said she offered help because Jacob’s service as a four-year Army veteran has been overlooked.
“Fulton County’s been very lucky,” she said. “We haven’t had any soldiers come back in a pine box. Here we’ve got a veteran who did come home who’s in desperate need of help.”
Ultimately, Sattler said, she hopes the treatment will assist in Jacob regaining his personal freedom.
“It all comes down to independence, to stay home by himself, to fix a meal by himself, to do things for himself, make decisions for himself, that could dramatically change a lot of things for us,” Sattler said. “Going out to Minnesota might help with that, and to me, that’s worth the price. There are so many things that we wanted to happen that were literally taken away. Life is very different, and sometimes we have had to swallow that pill and accept it for what it is.”
Although his personality has changed somewhat, Sattler still sees aspects of the old Jacob.
“I think it helps that sometimes we talk about how things used to be to give him the idea,” she said. “He came to the realization that (he) may not be able to remember but (he) can create new memories, and that’s okay.”