Jason Levy, retired Gilbert resident and former Silicon Valley executive, is getting his final affairs in order in light of the worst-case scenario he confronts.
He’s pursuing his bucket-list dreams in case his upcoming experimental brain surgery fails or causes irreparable damage.
“At the age of 60, dying on the table or coming out in any worse state than I go in is a very real possibility,” the father of four said. “But this is a risk I’m willing to take for a chance at a better life.”
His son, Josh, a filmmaker in Vietnam, is wary off the process and worries for his father.
“He’s very protective of me,” Jason said. “I get it, but it’s one thing to know and love me like this and another to actually be me like this.”
Levy has counted his blessings since a tragic accident in 2017. On April 27, he fell off the backside of a mountain, traveling approximately 430-feet to a should-have-been death.
He was also involved earlier in a series of multiple car accidents.
Recovering but disoriented, Levy was in his Santa Cruz backyard, attempting to chop down a Redwood tree inhibiting his view of the valley below.
His mountain-top property afforded him a luxurious sight enhanced by his DIY landscaping.
“I should have realized I was still concussed and in no way able to complete this task safely,” he admitted.
He picked up an ax and tried anyway. On one swing, the momentum caused him to lose his footing and go over the cliff.
Breaking open his skull upon impact, Levy survived the fall despite the odds.
Injuries sustained included a broken neck, three spinal fractures, broken ribs, a displaced shoulder and bleeding on the brain. The cumulative impact resulted in a traumatic brain injury and stroke.
Recalling that day, Levy said, “The first responder radioed up to his commander, ‘I can see his brain!’ That freaked me out a little bit.”
As a traumatic brain injury survivor, Levy, while glad to be alive, constantly struggles with the invisible effects impeding speech, interfering with movement and coordination, limiting cognitive function and reducing visual acuity.
“It’s definitely harder to get around now,” he said. “I used to drive fancy sports cars, but now I depend on Uber.”
The discrepancies between what life used to be for the healthy and wealthy sales pro and now as a disabled individual make Levy feel disconnected from his own body.
“I’ve tried to explain what it’s like to live inside this body that is always tired, confused and clumsy, but it’s difficult for people to understand,” he said.
He attends a TBI survivors support group that meets virtually and wishes everyone could participate so they would better understand how to accommodate and support the community of those who sustain severe brain injuries.
Now he is preparing for a closed clinical trial beginning in February, sponsored by Stanford University.
The FDA-approved trial will experiment with therapeutic brain stimulation through the use of probes, surgically implanted into the brain and a pacemaker-like device attached near the collarbone to record activity and initiate the stimulatory signal.
Only six participants will be included in this risky trial. Half will receive constant brain stimulation while the other half will have this feature deactivated but still reading neurological activity.
The goal of treatment is to help patients improve memory, focus and attention, and reduce neuro-fatigue from everyday life.
Levy’s goal now is to leverage his remarkable experience to tell his story and raise awareness for all those who suffer from the effects of a TBI.
On preparing for the trial, he said, “I want this community to feel more validated and able to find more resources. I want others to be more sensitive to the difficulties we face every day. More importantly, I want survivors to find hope for their future.”
Levy is recording his life story and storing it in a repository in the hopes he can have it translated into an inspirational memoir or a film documentary similar to 127 Hours.
He is seeking local speaking opportunities and podcast spots to help spread the word. Those who are interested in hearing more about his journey or getting involved in the film or book project can reach out on social media or via e-mail at JasonLevy430@yahoo.com.