By Roz Weis,
EDITOR’S NOTE: In a social media post from the Iowa State Patrol “It has been 435 days since Trooper Jared Rude sustained a traumatic brain injury while working on the family acreage in NE Iowa. At 4 p.m. Feb. 13, he completed his first shift back on the road. The odds of being able to get back to work were against Trooper Rude from the beginning, but his family and friends knew he had the drive to make it happen! Through his own hard work, determination, and with a ton of support…please join us in welcoming back to duty.” Here is the feature article published in Decorah Newspapers in August about Jared Rude’s inspiring road to recovery.
Jared Rude relaxes on a lounge chair on his family’s deck in Decorah, chatting with his wife and watching his two young daughters play in their back yard. He’s all smiles. The picture seems so routine, and it’s hard to imagine this cheerful, young 33-year-old Iowa State Trooper was in a coma just nine months ago – fighting for his life. Jared sits back, smiles and tells the story, displaying the confident attitude that has helped him recover through the last months after the devastating accident that initially left him unresponsive, unable to speak or move. It’s been a long nine months for the Rudes, marked most recently by Jared’s return to work with the Iowa State Patrol. His remarkable recovery has been the result of long days of physical, occupational and speech therapies with a host of medical professionals, family and friends. Jared and Amanda’s story Jared and Amanda are Decorah natives. Jared is the son of Gregg and Kari Rude, and Amanda is the daughter of Loren and Connie Amundson. Both graduated from Decorah High School in 2007 and went on to earn their college degrees at the University of Wisconsin at Platteville. Jared, who has a degree in civil engineering, got a job right out of college, following in his dad’s footsteps as a state trooper. His first post was with the State of Wisconsin in Madison; and he then took a job as an Iowa State Trooper in the central Iowa community of Traer, working for the Benton and Tama Counties. They returned to Decorah a few years ago. Amanda earned her degree in education, and is currently a fourth-grade teacher at Postville Community Schools. They have two young daughters, Lillian, 5, and Lyla, 4. The accident Dec. 7, 2019 is a day forever marked in Jared and his wife Amanda’s hearts. He was outside with his dad and friends constructing a shed on their acreage. Jared has no memory of what happened to him. He fell 11-feet from the scaffolding, with his head taking the brunt of the fall onto the cement beneath him. He credits his dad, also a State Trooper, and others around him with quick reactions to his injuries. Immediate response came from the Decorah Police, Winneshiek County Sheriff’s Office, Decorah Fire Department, along with the paramedics, ambulance crews and helicopter crew. It would be a miraculous 45 minutes later when he arrived by helicopter to Gundersen Health Systems in La Crosse, Wis. “Mike Ashbacher and Ben Shockey (Winneshiek Medical Critical Care Paramedics) were first on the scene,” Jared said. “Calls were made quickly and the helicopter landed here (at their home), with officers shutting down the highway for my transport.” “No family members were allowed in the helicopter with Jared,” Amanda said. She and other family members rushed to La Crosse to be with him. “Jared’s mom and dad, his brother Jason, along with members of the State Patrol, my parents and some friends were all there pretty quickly.” The next few days were critical, and the Rudes needed help with their two small daughters. “My sister Laura watched them for the first week,” Amanda said. “Then Laura watched them periodically as needed along with Jared’s family and my family.” When Amanda reached her husband’s bedside, she learned the news was not good. Jared had suffered a traumatic head injury, and scans showed bleeding on the brain. He was in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) on a ventilator for five days with broken vertebrae, broken facial bones and a serious temporal bone break. Word from the neurosurgeon was bleak at first. However, the decision was made to continually monitor him, watching his body for movements, and holding off on any surgical procedures. For several painstaking days he showed no movement, unless the doctors or nurses purposely prompted him. Long road to recovery The initial nine weeks in the hospital at Gundersen in La Crosse marked only the beginning of Jared’s heroic road to recovery. The accident confirmed Jared’s strong will and his unmatched determination to get better. “I had three goals,” Jared said. “the first goal was to live at home with my wife, the second was to live at home with my kids, and the third was to go back to work.” Those goals led him to a lengthy stay at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, a facility in the Chicago suburbs specializing in brain injuries. Someone was by Jared’s side for four months, during his stays in La Crosse and in Chicago. The next months were filled with rigorous therapies. “I had to relearn everything,” Jared said. Learning to talk, eat and walk would take up all his days. Speech therapy has been an important part of Jared’s recovery. “When he started talking, it was not normal,” Amanda said. “He would say 100 words, and maybe one word would be an actual word.” “He had a ‘deer in the headlights’ look for a time,” she continued. Jared has no memory of the initial 37 days following the accident. He vividly remembers a day in mid-January where he recalled an outing to the Field Museum in Chicago with his father. He has a memory of wearing a belt around his waist for support. His hard work at the rehabilitation center allowed him to return home in March when COVID-19 concerns forced the partial closure of the center. Jared moved home and spent long hours each day on remote therapy online from April through June. He continues to work with physical therapists, speech therapists and occupational therapists. Outpouring of support On Aug. 7, eight months after his accident, Jared returned to work for the Iowa State Patrol on alternate duty. He is working 20 hours per week initially, and hopes to be back to work full-time in the near future. He passed his driving test earlier this summer. Jared earned a top award for his hard work and dedication as a State Trooper during an awards ceremony in Des Moines recently. Every year the Iowa Department of Public Safety and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau recognize outstanding traffic safety contributions by individuals and groups. Selection is based on one’s commitment to traffic safety and service provided beyond routine duties, creativity of approach, ingenuity, and effectiveness of a traffic safety program or campaign. The recent award was based on Jared’s performance on the job in 2019. His nomination was made prior to his accident. “The State Patrol has been amazing,” he said. Troopers from across the region were vigilant in their support for the Rude family. Support ranged from frequent visits, helping the family with yard work, and assembling a swing set for the kids – to name a few. The community support locally has been overwhelming, according to the Rudes. Anonymous donors, friends, family, coworkers, doctors and more have supported the family on his road to recovery. A Friday night fundraiser organized in late December brought pledges from businesses and individuals in Northeast Iowa. The Decorah-New Hampton basketball game event raised more than $11,000. “We live in such a good community,” Jared said. “A lot got us to this point … A lot of great people are in my life and kept me motivated in the right direction … My family helped with my mental attitude to give 100 percent effort.”