Jason built his life around cars, but a motorcycle ride took him off course

Cars are Jason Merrill’s life. He aced an auto tech program in high school and was in a similar program at San Jacinto College when he took a break from work. While his car was in the shop, he borrowed a friend’s motorcycle.

On March 15, 2012, Jason finished work, jumped on the motorcycle and joined Houston’s rush-hour traffic. Behind an 18-wheeler that suddenly swung left to make a right turn, he had to swerve quickly to avoid hitting the huge vehicle. But, by doing the maneuver, he struck the curb and found himself under the truck. He was rushed to the trauma center at Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital.

Jason’s mother, Marla Claycomb, was fishing with her younger son when she learned of the accident. Frantic for information, she was impressed by the kindness of the LBJ nurse who spoke with her, reassuring her of Jason’s condition. Even before she could get to LBJ, her son was transferred to Harris Health Ben Taub Hospital.

Jason’s right lung had collapsed, and he suffered multiple lacerations, as well as facial and skull fractures. A week later, his brain began swelling. He had surgery and was placed in a medically induced coma. The complications seemed unending. Circulation was an issue; his carotid artery was occluded; he had blood clots in his arms. He suffered several strokes, brief kidney failure, pneumonia, hearing loss, fevers, headaches, speech problems, depression and right-side paralysis. 

After four months of inpatient rehab, Jason now lives with his family. He walks to build his endurance. “I work really hard, and I’m getting a lot stronger. I still want to work on cars. I haven’t thought of anything else I want to do.”

His mother remembers and is grateful for the great care her son received. “I was so impressed with the ICU staff. Patients got the treatment they needed, according to their condition, without judgment. I encourage families to listen to the staff. Take advantage of hospital programs. Listen to the social workers because they have so much to offer.”

Invited to speak to his high school auto tech class, Jason had plenty to offer, too. “Be careful. The decisions you make today will affect your life tomorrow.”

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