Jesse Martin & Family Battle Medical Challenges

(above) DU hockey player Jesse Martin, his father Terry and their family have persevered through a lifetime worth of medical challenges in the past year

Edmonton Journal
by Cam Tait

It's little wonder Terry Martin and his family don't know what to give one another for Christmas gifts this year.

They have all they need: Each other.

The past year could have torn the Edmonton family of four apart. Terry's wife, Jacquie, was diagnosed with a brain tumor just before his daughter, Natasha, was injured in a car crash and required emergency surgery.

Then his son, Jesse, a 22-year-old senior who plays hockey for the University of Denver Pioneers, was injured in an Oct. 30 game against the North Dakota Fighting Sioux and carried off the ice on a stretcher with a spinal cord injury. Three days after getting home from visiting with Jesse in the U.S., Terry had heart attack.

"We're all having a little trouble buying Christmas gifts this year," Terry says. "I mean really, what material things could we give or receive that could provide greater happiness than what we are experiencing by simply being together?"

It's the gift of family.

"The serious medical challenges each of us faced recently certainly tested us as individuals with respect to inner strength and character. But how we came through it all is also a testament to how closely knit our family is," Terry says.

Jesse's injury -- a crush against the boards when he was looking down -- got a lot of attention because of a YouTube video of the hit. As of Monday, the video had been watched 131,192 times.

"Like every family, we have had our ups and downs, but the common thread has been that we never forget that we are there for each other no matter what, and we are always able to lean on each other for support," says Jesse.

Support has been strong.

Natasha remained in Edmonton to care for her 85-year-old grandmother while her parents were with Jesse in Minneapolis, where he was taken for treatment. Terry's brother Jim rushed from an African vacation to Minneapolis to lend support.

The hockey family also sprang into action.

"I had no idea that the outpouring of support from Denver, Edmonton, and even Minnesota would be so much that it really was overwhelming," says Jesse, who played for the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Spruce Grove Saints in 2005-06.

A telephone call came from Aaron Moser, an Edmonton native who became a quadriplegic in 1998 during a Junior A hockey game in Powell River, B.C.

"Speaking with Aaron was extremely uplifting and motivating," says Jesse.

'He's such an incredible guy that knowing his story and to have him call me meant a great deal to me because you have so many people saying they could imagine what you're going through, when in fact, he truly did know what I was going through."

The support has helped bring all four Martins back to their Mill Woods home for the festive season.

"I have always loved Christmas," says Jesse, who now walks under his own steam. "But now you don't take it for granted -- you cherish that time with your friends and family that much more."

Terry says each of the four rose to the occasion when they had to.

"Somehow, and really without being aware of it, we all seem to offer or derive inspiration when it really matters, each of us sort of taking turns being 'the rock' for the family," says Terry.

There will be much to celebrate Saturday, health being at the top of the list. Terry says he's much better. Natasha and Jacquie are making progress, too.

While Jesse might be the one who has the most challenging road, he's ready to tackle things head on.

"I think for all competitive athletes, there is a certain amount of competitiveness within you to succeed, therefore, having that mind-set, going into physical therapy and going through everyday life with that attitude helps everything, not just your rehab," says Jesse.

After returning to Minneapolis last week so the halo holding his spine in place could be removed, he now has a plastic collar to keep his neck straight.

He plans to return to Denver on Dec. 31 to resume his studies -- something that doesn't really surprise his father. He recalls what his son told him soon after the injury.

"Don't worry dad, I'm alive and talking, thinking well, and while some people see a glass as half full, and others see it as half empty, I'm just grateful I have a glass to look at."

"His humility brought me to tears," says Terry Martin.


dggoddard said...

Great article.

Good to hear that Jesse's halo has been removed and replaced with the plastic collar.

Keep Jesse and his family in your thoughts this holiday season.

Anonymous said...

Jesse, I hope you read these posts because I want to let you know that you and your family have truly inspired me!

msbdu said...

What a great article, a testimony to the strength of this family. Jesse, you and your family remain in our thoughts and prayers everyday.

Our Christmas wish is for you all to stay strong for each other and know that your friends at DU are behind you.

puck swami said...

In sports, we hear all the time how teams face "adversity" when they get down a few touchdowns, runs, goals or points. That isn't adversity, folks.

The Martin family is dealing with real adversity - serious, life-threatening medical adversity, and they are giving us a all very good blueprint for how to handle it-- a kind of humble courage born of the Candaian prairies, where people learn to be thankful, have humility and face life's challenges with tenacious grace.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the updated picture - it's good to see Jesse without his "suit of armor" as Gwoz called it.
As for Puckswami's comment - I agree completely. I was listening to the NHL network yesterday and "adversity" was losing a few games - and I thought immediately of the Martins and thought "you have got to be kidding".

du78 said...

Merry Christmas to the Martin family! We will be thinking about you during thr holidays and will keep all of you in our prayers.

vizoroo said...

The Martin family has been truly tested and passed with flying colors!
You are in our thoughts and prayers and we look forward to your continued recovery.