GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It was a special night for a 20-year-old man who has spent the last 110 days in a hospital bed following a horrific car crash.
The doctors and staff at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital arranged for Jake Veeder — a huge superhero fan — to see a Marvel movie on a big screen complete with friends, family and popcorn.
Jake is lucky to be alive. He is a survivor of a deadly crash seven months ago that cost him his legs.
But Sunday, he got to fly through the universe with Captain Marvel.
It was Nov. 17 on a road in Oakland County, south of Flint. Jake was riding with a friend who police say took a corner too fast, flipping the car and it burst into flames.
It took 22 rescue personnel from three departments to free Jake from the wreckage.
The crash killed his 22-year-old friend, Jeremy Blevins.
“I mean, I’m blown away every single day just knowing that he’s still here. We’re definitely grateful,” said Jake’s mom Trisha Smith, who along with dad, Dave Oates, has been at his side as much as they can.
Jake suffered severe burns, broken bones, a lacerated liver, collapsed lungs and then lost both legs below the knees.
He was at Hurley Hospital in Flint before coming to Mary Free Bed in March.
“Just getting him over here to Mary Free Bed, knowing that he was going to start his rehabilitation, that was amazing and knowing this was the best place for him,” Smith said. “The fever we could not get rid of for months. It wasn’t until he finally came over here that the did something magical and got rid of the fever.”
His mom still lives in Oakland County, where she cares for her 13-year-old daughter and triplet girls younger than 2-years-old
Before the crash, Jake was about to start film school. He plans to be a YouTube star — showing off his video game skills.
“We know that he eventually is going to start moving again and playing his video games again. We just don’t know how long it will be until then, but we’re not going anywhere, I know that. He’s stuck with us,” she said
On Sunday, Jake settled in to watch the movie in the lobby, something arranged by the staff enjoying his favorite food, fettuccine and his favorite drink, Mountain Dew Code Red.
Asked why he was excited, he gave an answer that would warm Stan Lee’s heart — “I like Marvel.”
It all happened because of the team that cares for Jake wanted him to have a special night after a long, hard journey.
“We’ve been working for the past six weeks to try to get to this point where we can get Jake down here, he can tolerate and enjoy the movie,” said Dr. Michael Wheaton, Jake’s physician at Mary Free Bed.
They hope it will be motivation for their patient.
“If anything, I just hope it gives him a sense of looking at the future and things can go on and he can still enjoy the things he enjoyed before,” said Kate Aeschlimann, Jake’s occupational therapist.
Doctors say he has made remarkable progress, exceeding expectations. There is a long road ahead, but he has the will power and support to succeed.
“Don’t give up,” Jake said.
You can donate to Veeder’s expense fund and read updates on his progress online.