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DRAPER — In 2008, a tragic mistake by a local pharmacy fried the brain of a Utah high school senior.
The mistake paralyzed Jessie Scott from the neck down and left him in a coma for 73 days. A prescribed pain medication that was supposed to have been diluted at the pharmacy was mistakenly dispensed full-strength.
Doctors once predicted that the 4.0-GPA high school graduate might never wake up — but a lot has happened in the past six years.
For starters, Jessie is far from dead and hardly in a vegetative state. It's been a tough road, but strength in his arms and hands is gradually returning.
When Jessie went into a coma, his body was unresponsive to anything, though it appeared as if he could hear the voices of his mom and dad, Laurie and Wayne Scott. His mother never lost hope her son would live, but reality set in after he came out of the coma, paralyzed from the neck down.
"He was totally shutting down," Laurie Scott said. "Literally, from 2008 to 2011 was the first time I actually thought I was going to lose him."
But how things have changed.
"In the last two years, it's been fantastic," she said.
With hard, painful, daily therapy, Jessie is making a turnaround. After vomiting almost every day for three and half years, a breakthrough occurred.
"The hyperbaric chamber changed his life," Laurie Scott said. "Nausea and vomiting were gone, like day one. It was unbelievable. No one else could figure out what to do. He's been getting stem cell regeneration — cell regeneration shots."
Learning how to concentrate, to talk, to regain enough manipulation in his arms and hands to play a video game, and even to print his name — all these routine functions humans take for granted had to be relearned. He was quite an illustrator before the accident and, though that kind of dexterity has yet to return, Jessie's also trying to draw again.
But the ultimate goal for Jessie, his therapists and his family members say, is yet to come.
"Reading, writing, drawing are all significant, but walking is my biggest hope (for Jessie)," said Jony Hansen, Jessie's therapist. "He's so close, I know he can do it. I have no doubt in that."
"He can voluntarily lift his right leg. He can stand. He can come from sitting to standing," said Randy Clark, another therapist who works regularly with Jessie.
There's a world of difference watching Jessie now, compared to where he was six years ago.
I wanted to hurt someone then, but now I forgive you. ... It's up to 'you know who' upstairs to judge, not me.
"He's going to walk again, and he's getting closer all the time," his mother said.
Jessie's therapists said his comeback, so far, is nothing short of remarkable.
"What he's doing, at least in my experience, which has been just about 21 years, is kind of unheard of," Clark said.
Jessie's philosophy has changed, too. After the pharmacy accident, he was bitter and angry.
"I wanted to hurt someone then, but now I forgive you," he said, referring to the individual, or individuals, responsible for the drug overdose.
In Jessie's words: "It's up to 'you know who' upstairs to judge, not me."
Despite the damage the concentrated drug did to his brain, many cells have rewired. And while they do just that, Jessie continues rewiring his life.
"It's awesome. It's hard work, but I'll do it," he said. "My spirit just keeps saying, 'Go, go, go!'"