From almost the moment I walked off of the stage at the end of American Idol Jerome Bell has stood beside me. In fact, throughout the years I've had Jerome next to me so much that countless people have assumed I am a lot shorter than I am. His 6'7" frame towering over me, never far away, made me look small by comparison. Jerome been a constant for me in an industry where friends can be fleeting and work friends can be fleeting. For almost 14 years now he has not only protected me; he's been a father figure in a way that no one else ever was.
On Monday, November 21 a lot changed... in a very quick moment.
While working an event in Atlanta, Jerome was struck by a malfunctioning forklift. The injuries that resulted have been devastating. In addition to shattered pelvis and multiple breaks in his right leg, doctors were forced to amputate his left leg from mid-thigh. He also sustained traumatic injuries to internal organs. For Thanksgiving this year, Jerome and his family (along with myself and countless other friends of his) were most thankful that he had survived.
After almost a half dozen surgeries in the span of just one week, Jerome's health is beginning to stabilize. He is awake and talking with family and friends. As is his nature, he's remaining positive and focusing not on himself but on reassuring those around him who are worried about him.
Unfortunately, there are still many procedures and hospital days come. Doctors anticipate Jerome will remain in the ICU for perhaps a month longer. Beyond January, Jerome will likely be in a rehabilitation facility for an extended period -- perhaps not returning home until Summer 2017.
It's certainly difficult to process such a tragedy, and it's a jarring reminder of how quickly our lives can change.
Throughout the past week, the outpouring of support and prayers for Jerome and his family have been immeasurable. Many have reached out to me or to his family in hopes of providing comfort and support.
Here's how we can do it.
The costs for such a life altering situation aren't easy to estimate at all. Notwithstanding medical expenses, which no insurance will cover entirely, the costs to modify his home and transportation to make them wheelchair accessible promise to be exorbitant. The expense of rehabilitation alone will be too high to calculate, and Jerome will need one-to-one care for a substantial period even after returning home. Add to that the lost wages and the effects of inability to work that won't possibly be recovered fully through disability.
True, we may not be able to help Jerome and his family cover all of the mounting expenses that they are about to encounter, but Jerome's survival from this awful accident is proof to me that God works miracles. And He can work one again.
Jerome has spent years of his life in the business of protecting others. He's dedicated himself to putting others' needs above his own.
It hasn't just been his job; it's been his nature.
We now have a chance to do a little bit to help protect him.
Please give what you're able. Every bit will help.
- Clay Aiken