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Bemidji man back from brink

Jake Sand played well in the 12th annual Lumberjack Scramble golf tournament on Friday.

That shouldn't be surprising. because Sand, 25, is a golf professional at Desert Mountain Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. But considering he is four months into recovery from a massive closed head trauma, he knows he is fortunate to have not just his game, but also his life back.

"I've always put things in perspective," Sand said. "Friends and family have always been important, but now they're even more important."

About midnight April 2, Jake was at a friend's house when he missed a step and fell backwards down a staircase.

"Hit the concrete at the bottom," Jake said.

"It was his roommate who knew he was badly hurt," said Jake's mother, Anne Sand.

Fortunately, Scottsdale is well supplied with trauma centers and he was treated by Dr. Nicholas Bambakidis, a skilled neurosurgeon. Jake was taken to emergency services and then intensive care, where he was put into a medically induced coma for 11 days.

"They said I talked, but I don't remember any of it,"

Jake said.

His family received the call from the emergency room at about 3:45 a.m. Bemidji time.

"I was there that day," Anne said. "I think, as a parent, you always dread getting that call."

She said there were times when she was afraid the family would lose Jake, but the speed with which he reached treatment, the technology, his youth and general health and the support from family, friends and strangers pulled him through.

"I was in a haze for 3-4 days after I woke up," Jake said. "Big fog."

But, he said, he knew he was alive.

"I woke up and thought I was in Florida," he said with a smile. "I don't know why. I don't even like Florida."

After 12 days, he was moved out of ICU, but he spent a month total in the hospital, followed by a month of physical, occupational and speech therapy. He returned to work part time at Desert Mountain, then moved into full time by the end of June.

Now, he said, he works out five days a week and considers himself 95 percent back to normal physically. "Mentally, I don't think about it anymore," he said.

He said his therapist told him someone suffering a head trauma needs about a year for full recovery.

"We all count our blessings every day," said Anne.

She and Jake said the kindness of everyone -- what Jake calls "natural medicine" -- during the family's ordeal was a major source of strength and healing.

"That was huge," she said. "I don't know if people understand the little things that made a difference. We got e-mails from people we didn't know."

Desert Mountain is a high-end golf club catering to wealthy people. Anne said club members offered them the use of their guest cottages and cars. Bemidji High School students years younger than Jake followed his progress. And cards and calls came from all over the country and the world.

"We talk about a sense of community, and it's there in so many places and so many ways" Anne said. "We don't take it for granted."