Amber Traxler’s ten-year-old son, Jared, wouldn’t open the door of their guest bedroom. She had a bad feeling – and when she finally got inside, all her worst fears were confirmed. So she gave fellow parents a warning to prevent them from having to make the same tragic discovery.
Jared was one of Traxler’s five children. The pre-teen was growing up in New Haven, Kentucky, a city with fewer than 850 residents, according to the 2000 census. But his childhood wasn’t as carefree and idyllic as a small-town upbringing is supposed to be.
In June of 2015, Jared had visited his grandfather, Jake Myers, to ask if he could use one of his fishing rods. But the then-nine-year-old was never able to get an answer – when he walked in, he found that 53-year-old Myers was dead.
Over the next year, Traxler told The Mirror that she had noticed her son would never broach the topic. “He never wanted to talk about his pawpaw,” she said. At the same time, his demeanor changed, but she put that “down to him becoming a teenager,” she said.
It turned out that her son was feeling more than teenage angst. Jared was secretly grappling with the sadness he felt after his grandfather’s untimely death. On the one-year anniversary of that traumatic day, his grief came to a head.
Jared and Traxler were at her mother’s house that day. “I could tell that Jared was in a bad mood,” she recalled. So when her son hid away in one of the home’s guest bedrooms, Traxler thought nothing of it.
But then when Jared’s grandmother tried to speak to him through the bedroom’s closed door, he wouldn’t answer. Consequently, Traxler said, “She went to open the door and found it was locked. She got the key.”
When Jared’s grandmother finally got inside of the bedroom, the scene in front of her elicited a shriek that Traxler said she “will never forget.” In fact, when Traxler heard it, she said her “heart jumped into her throat.”
As his grandmother saw first, his mother would soon realize that her ten-year-old son had hanged himself. Traxler described his terrifying state when she entered the room. “His face was black, his lips were purple. He was dead,” she said.
But Traxler and her mom weren’t going to give up on Jared without a fight. His grandmother took his lifeless body down and began to perform CPR. Meanwhile, Traxler ran outside and asked a water department employee on the street to call an ambulance.
By the time she got back indoors, there was some good news. “My mother had managed to revive him. He at least had a pulse,” Traxler said. And first responders arrived quickly – a helicopter touched down in a nearby baseball field to airlift Jared to a Louisville hospital.
But Jared wasn’t out of the woods yet. When she arrived at the hospital, Traxler said, “Doctors prepared me for the worst.” And when she walked in to see her son for the first time, she understood why.
“He was unrecognizable,” Jared’s mom recalled, “He was hooked up to so many machines and was intubated.” Her son would remain on life support for about five days as his doctors attempted to regulate his body temperature. Jared’s lung had also collapsed.
And the medical team warned his mom that he might not ever be the same, even if he survived. “They worried he may have been deprived of oxygen for too long and could be brain damaged,” Traxler recalled.
Nevertheless, his doctors tried to bring Jared out of a coma – and Traxler was watching as her son came to. “He was still intubated,” she recalled, “but his eyes immediately filled with tears. I think he was really scared.”
As any parent will understand, Traxler felt immediate relief to see her son had survived. She also felt shock that her ten-year-old had taken such extreme measures. “I felt so guilty that I had missed the signs,” she said.
But Jared had a second chance – he left the hospital in July of 2016. So, he and his mom made it their mission to tell his story to others in the hope that it could shed light on suicide prevention, as well as the importance of mental health.
Jared said, “It was really hard after I lost my pawpaw, but if you are feeling low it will all be okay. Talking really helped me and I think about the good memories we had together a lot. Counseling really helped me.”
To that end, Jared said that he’d become more honest with his family about his state of mind too. “I am a lot more open about how I am feeling with my mom and grandma,” he said.
As for the future, Jared said that he hoped to become a professional fisherman – he had found “a happy place,” he said, and he wanted others to reach the same space. “Find something you like doing when you feel said,” he shared via Love What Matters, “I go fishing, then think about all the good, and how blessed I truly am.”