ABINGTON — Get-well cards from Frolio School students decorate the hospital room where the school’s custodian, Paul K. Jacob, is fighting for his life more than four weeks after he and his son, Paul D. Jacob, were critically injured in a Motor vehicle crash on Route 3.
“I have all those cards taped on his window for when he wakes up,” his daughter, Danielle Rhoades of Whitman, said Saturday after spending the night at her father’s bedside, fearing he would not make it.
The elder Jacob remains in critical condition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where he has been since the crash on Mother’s Day. His right leg was amputated Thursday, according to Rhoades. She said he is on life support and has many other internal and head injuries.
The younger Jacob, who suffered a spinal cord injury and is unable to walk, is in a Rehabilitation program at Boston Medical Center.
The two men were thrown from the elder Jacob’s Chevrolet S-10 pickup when it was struck by another vehicle as they drove south on Route 3 on May 9, heading for their favorite fishing spot at Little Pond in Plymouth. Neither was wearing a seat belt.
Rhoades said they had just stopped for breakfast and had driven on to Route 3 south from Rockland when a passing motorist shouted, “Watch out,” to her brother, who was driving. But, she said, it was too late.
“That’s when the car hit them,” said Rhoades, relating the details of the crash as told by her brother, who was driving when the other motorist, identified by police as Mark J. Brinkman, 32, of Boston, lost control of his vehicle and struck the Jacobs’ truck.
“My brother said he was trying to drive out of it, then the truck started to flip,” she said. “He said, ‘I put my arm out for Dad,’ but there was nothing they could do at that point. Nothing was going to change that outcome.”
Both of the Jacobs were airlifted from the scene to separate Boston hospitals. Traffic was tied up for four hours.
Paul K. Jacob’s wife, Pat, was driving in that traffic and heard reports of the crash on her car radio, her daughter said.
Pat Jacob, an emergency medical technician for South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, is familiar with crash scenes, according to her daughter, a nurse at Boston Floating Hospital.
“She thought to herself, ‘Oh, those poor people must have died,’ never thinking it was going to be her family,” Rhoades said.
Pat Jacob arrived home at the same time Brigham and Women’s Hospital called to say her husband was there. Rhoades’ husband, Kent Rhoades, took the call.
Later, the family learned that young Paul was also critically injured in the crash.
More than a month later, the family is struggling to get through a tragedy that is even worse than one the elder Jacob suffered in 1973 when he was in a coma for six months after his vehicle was struck by another vehicle operated by a drunken driver, his daughter said.
“They said he wasn’t going to live,” Rhoades said. “He did and he went on to live a pretty full life. Miracles do happen.”
Knowing that her father survived one near-fatal crash even before she was born, Rhoades said, she believes in miracles and is hoping for another.
As she strives to be strong for her mother and keep her brother’s spirits up, Rhoades said the family faces many challenges in the coming months. Both she and her mother have taken leaves from their jobs, but Rhoades said she must return to work next week.
She expects her brother, an artist and motor vehicle technician whose legs are paralyzed, will return to the family’s Spruce Street home for a while.
“We’re probably going to have to renovate the house in Abington,” she said, holding on to hope that the feeling he does have in his legs is a good sign that he will some day walk again.
“He’s going to need months of rehab because he has a spinal cord injury,” Rhoades said. “The good thing is that it’s low — he does have feeling in his legs. The nerve surgeon didn’t seem to think he’d walk, but I never say never.”
To complicate thoughts of renovating the family’s home to accommodate the men’s injuries, Rhoades said the sinking foundation must first be repaired, work her father was planning.
She has already written to a television program, Extreme Home Makeover, hoping the family’s home will be chosen as a show project.
The calls from friends and neighbors are helpful, she said. But neighbor Patricia Langley said she wishes she could do more.
“I visited Pat and all I could offer her was a warm embrace,” Langley said. “She said she wished she could give her legs to her son.”
Langley said it is difficult to watch one family suffer so much.
The Jacob Family Fund has been established at Rockland Federal Credit Union to help the family, according to Langley. A blood drive will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 19 at the Frolio School.
Rhoades said community support is important right now and that she wants friends, neighbors and her father’s co-workers and students to know their prayers and messages are appreciated.
“My father is so well-loved in the town,” she said. “We just want them to be OK right now — that’s the bottom line.”
By Elaine Allegrini, Enterprise staff writer