David Jeffers can’t stand pork chops.
I found this out when my daughter, Conley, and David’s sons, Jaxon and Brody, were discussing their favorite foods during my interview that conveniently doubled as a playdate in the Jeffers’ warm and inviting Pineville, NC, home. Conley, a great lover of swine, was flabbergasted.
“Why don’t you like pork chops, Mr. David? Is it because you only eat vegetables? I have a cousin who only eats vegetables.”
David laughed and shook his head, “No, I love meat. It’s just that pork chops, giant ones, were what I had for dinner the night of my accident and now I can’t even think about them.”
He said it nonchalantly, much like someone would tell you that they can no longer eat chicken cacciatore because it was the last thing that they had eaten the night a particularly gruesome stomach bug paid them a visit.
Not only was David’s accident not in the same ballpark as a stomach bug, it wasn’t in the same galaxy.
On August 1, 2011, the Jeffers returned to their rental home in Kure Beach, NC, after eating dinner at a local restaurant. David, his wife Yasmine (pregnant with their second son), their teenaged nephew and 2-year-old Jaxon donned their suits and headed back to the ocean for a quick evening dip.
“It was a perfect day,” David said. “You know, just great.”
David dove into a wave, like he had “2.5 million” times before, but in that instant life as the Jeffers family knew it would be forever altered. David hit a sandbar. He tried to swim up to the surface but quickly realized that he no longer possessed that ability because he couldn’t move.
He eventually got his head above water and called for help. His nephew and wife started yelling and a nurse who was walking on the beach ran to help.
Paramedics quickly determined that a medicopter was needed to fly David to a hospital in Wilmington, NC. Yasmine accompanied him, still in her bathing suit and covered in sand. While David was in surgery, Yasmine returned to the beach house to take a shower. When she stepped out of the shower the enormity of what had just transpired hit her.
After surgery, Yasmine learned that David was a C5/C6 paraplegic. He is paralyzed from the chest down, which means he has nor core strength and no leg movement. He can move his arms but does not have function in his hands.
Yasmine said, “It was like the room was spinning. I felt myself spiraling, realizing there was so much I was going to have to do. How was I going to do it all?”
However, Yasmine heard a voice in her head that sounded like hers, but not the frantic, fearful one that she had heard in the past few hours. The voice she heard was calm and assured and told her, “You’re just going to do it.”
It was a simple concept, but in that moment and the almost six years that have followed, it has become something of a Jeffers family mantra.
The first two years following the accident, the Jeffers’ lives revolved around David’s recovery. However, after a devastating freak accident at the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation left David with a broken ankle, the family shifted their focus to living their lives as they were and providing stability to their young sons.
This is not to say that David hasn’t made incredible progress. He is an assistant coach for his son’s baseball team and can now drive a specially equipped van.
By trade, David is an engineer, but after the accident he found that he had a passion and a talent for digital art and photo editing. He has sold several of his pieces that he does entirely from his iPhone. However, his biggest triumph has been teaching his sons to ride their bikes.
“I couldn’t hold their seats and run behind them,” he said. “So, I had to figure out how to teach them how to do it with verbal commands.”
In the aftermath of her husband’s accident, Yasmine realized that she couldn’t return to a job that she dreaded and didn’t fulfill her. She followed her passion and obtained her Master’s Degree in family counseling.
The Jeffers continue to hope and strive for the day that David walks again. However, until then they are determined to enjoy the bike rides and the baseball games and the mundane magic of everyday life.
Learn more about David Jeffers here.
Photo credit: David and Yasmine Jeffers
This story was written for CharlotteFive’s latest channel for parents in the QC, called QC Playground. Sign up for the weekly QC Playground newsletter here.