Jack Weeks was a little nervous, a rare thing for a teen known for his dark humor and ability to laugh at just about anything.

He was about to go to the Maine Mall with friends for the first time since he was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident a year earlier. Would people look at him at strangely, he wondered, or would it just feel weird?

“But once I got there, I just goofed off and didn’t really care about what people thought,” he said. “I sped around and almost hit a bunch of things, which I can’t get in trouble for now.”

Jack Weeks, 17, a senior at Casco Bay High School, was injured in a diving accident in June 2020 when he dove into waves at a beach in Delaware and hit a sandbar. Since his accident he has learned to cope with depression, navigated medical setbacks and worked to become stronger and more independent. Someday, he says, he will walk again. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

That summertime trip to the mall to buy headphones felt like something of a milestone for Jack, a 17-year-old Casco Bay High School senior who has spent the last 540 days adjusting to life with incomplete quadriplegia. Since his accident on June 27, 2020, he has learned to cope with depression, navigated medical setbacks and worked to become stronger and more independent. Someday, he says, he will walk again.

“It’s challenging, but you really just celebrate the wins a lot more than you ever used to,” said his father, Kip Weeks.

In June 2020, Jack and his family were at the beach in Lewes, Delaware, during a visit with his grandparents. He and a cousin were playing on a floating mat in the murky, shallow water when Jack dove into the waves and hit a sandbar. His lungs filled with sand and water and he was instantly paralyzed.


After Jack was pulled to the beach, an emergency room doctor and off-duty paramedic began CPR while his parents and siblings watched in horror. He was rushed to the hospital and two days later underwent 10 hours of surgery on his C4 to C6 vertebrae, which had been injured in the accident.

Injuries to the C1 to C8 vertebrae can cause paralysis or weakness in both arms and legs. That area of the spinal cord controls signals to the back of the head, neck, shoulders, arms, hands and diaphragm. When the vertebrae are injured, all regions of the body below the level of injury may be affected.

Jack’s mother Cammie lifts his arm during a visit with an occupational therapist. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

An incomplete injury like Jack’s means that the ability of the spinal cord to convey messages to and from the brain is not completely lost and there may be some sensation and movement below the injury. Jack has feeling above his upper chest and can move his arms and hands.

He spent 25 days in a hospital in Delaware before transferring to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, a top rehabilitation center with a program specifically for adolescents with injuries like his. There, he did daily therapy to improve his strength and mobility, bonded with kids his age and earned a reputation for getting other patients up and out of their rooms. His friends nicknamed him the Sandman because he had so much sand in his lungs when he was pulled out of the water. His mother, Cammie Weeks, stayed with him in Atlanta and learned at the center how to be his caregiver.

After 147 days at the Shepherd Center, Jack and his mom flew back to Maine on Dec. 11, 2020, and arrived at a home he never seen. His parents had divorced years earlier but remained close friends. After the accident, his mother sold the family home in Portland where Jack had grown up, his father gave up his condo and the two bought a house in Gorham for his family to live in together.

With the help of family and friends, they converted the garage into an apartment for Jack that accommodates his medical needs and gives him a space of his own. Nobody was more thrilled to welcome him back than his siblings, Maggie, 12, and Gus, 10.


“There were a lot of changes, but we slowly got into a groove where everything is just kind of settling and we’re going through it,” Jack said.

Jack plays video games in his home in Gorham on Dec. 17. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer


Back in Maine, Jack started physical and occupational therapy at home and at the New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland. He looked forward to working with therapists on exercises to strengthen his core and arms and felt it was making a difference. But those sessions were a lot less intensive than the work he had done at the Shepherd Center and Jack felt he needed something with more challenge and excitement.

Over the summer, he started going twice a week to Project Walk Boston, a therapy program in Stratham, New Hampshire, with expertise in spinal cord injuries. He started each session by stretching his body so he wouldn’t have so many muscle spasms, then used a standing frame to help his body remember what it’s like to stand. He worked his arms, shoulders and legs. During the two-hour round trip to the center, Jack listens to music and his mom listens to audiobooks.

“The staff there is incredible and they motivate Jack. He loves going to Project Walk Boston because he can feel the progress and the excitement,” Kip Weeks said.

Those sessions, as well as ones he has with a local physical trainer, are not covered by insurance. Soon after the accident, Kip and Cammie Weeks were advised to set up a fundraising campaign to raise money for expenses like this and, in the future, for stem cell trials or surgeries. In just the first year after an accident like Jack’s, expenses can reach over $2 million, including home care, medical supplies, medications and equipment, according to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.


After Jack shared his story publicly, the family was overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers who donated through Help Hope Live, a national nonprofit that collects donations for medical expenses. Two people donated $50,000 each, which allowed the family to buy Jack a shiny black wheelchair accessible van.

Jack shows an occupational therapist how he brushes his teeth, turning on the electric toothbrush with his teeth, at his home in Gorham. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Jack said he doesn’t usually pay much attention to the fundraising or bills, but he’s “very grateful for the people who have supported me and my family.”

There were many days in the past year when Jack’s challenges went far beyond the physical.

He said he has had to learn to deal with depression, which he started struggling with in Atlanta and which sometimes keeps him up at night. He has a medical marijuana card and said that cannabis helps him both mentally and physically.

“It calms my body and it slows my brain to where I can’t think deeply about my situation,” he said. “It makes me feel happier.”

It also relaxes his body and reduces muscle spasms.


“It’s really incredible to see how it works. We really don’t know why, but it’s great,” his mother said.

Cammie Weeks watches as Jack navigates through his bedroom to his bathroom on Dec. 17, 2021. (Photo by Derek Davis). Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Through it all, Jack has relied on his friends to talk to when he is feeling depressed and to hang out with on his good days. They have bonfires in the backyard, watch TV, play games, “make stupid jokes and just laugh at each other for the stupidest reasons,” he said. He stays in touch with friends from the Shepherd Center by FaceTime and text.

Before Jack came home, his closest friends helped build his rooms, took care of Gus and Maggie and pitched in around the house however they could. He misses seeing them at school every day now that he’s taking classes online. But they come over regularly to hang out in Jack’s living room, where he has a large television, a three-screen gaming set up and a mini fridge stocked with drinks. A throw pillow on the couch reminds them to “Rise and Thrive.”

“I love this place. It’s my own little apartment, but everyone comes in all the time,” Jack said. “I’m very thankful for it.”


Just after his birthday in April, Jack developed a pressure sore on his ischium, or sit bone. It derailed some of the progress he had made, his mother said.


“He was kicking butt and then he got this pressure sore. That was really a blow because he was bedridden off and on for two months,” his father said.

Pressure sores, also known as pressure ulcers, can happen when a person sits or lies in the same position for too long, cutting off the flow of blood to the area and blocking oxygen and vital nutrients from maintaining healthy tissues. When the tissues are starved for too long, they begin to die and a sore starts to form.

Damage ranges from slight discoloration of the skin to severe sores that go all the way to the bone. People with spinal cord injuries are especially vulnerable because their bodies don’t signal them to move to relieve pressure.

Jack’s sore started very small but was severe because it reached down to the bone. For nearly three months, he used a vacuum-assisted wound closure device, a device used to pull fluid from the wound, reduce swelling and stimulate tissue growth to help close the wound. By fall, Jack could not get out of bed, leave the house or do any physical therapy.

“It takes a toll on you mentally. It’s horrible to see your kid go through that and know there’s nothing you can do to help,” Cammie Weeks said.

A few months ago, Jack saw a plastic surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital who put them on a new course of action to heal the sore. If there’s no improvement by the next visit, Jack will need surgery and then bed rest for another six to eight weeks. But the doctor also told his parents to let Jack get out of bed and go to physical therapy while they’re treating the sore.


“You don’t want the wound to take over their life,” Cammie Weeks said.

Jack reclines in his chair while meeting with an occupational therapist on Dec. 17. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The family doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges, but they’re also big on focusing on the good things: Jack is moving forward and getting stronger, Gus earned a scholarship to Waynflete and Maggie just booked her first modeling job.

“Everyone is thriving and it’s a good thing,” Cammie Weeks said. “The family has come together in a way where we can focus on everybody having their own moment instead of it all just being about the injury. That doesn’t define us.”

Kip Weeks says his family always will be hopeful that the good days will outnumber the bad. And they’re looking forward to opportunities that will open up when Jack turns 18 and becomes eligible for stem cell trials. They also closely track progress in research and surgical procedures that Jack could benefit from in the future.

“There is more to do. There is a lot more to go after,” Kip Weeks said. “You get through these ups and downs and then you gotta go chase your dreams.”

The day before the anniversary of his return home this month, Jack started working with his personal trainer again. The next day, he went to New Hampshire for his first session in more than two months at Project Walk Boston. He finally started physical therapy at home again, too.

Jack was happy to get back to it because he was starting to notice he had lost some strength and his muscles were tighter. He likes when he can feel himself getting stronger.

“Over the past year, I definitely have gone through a lot of depressing days. Just a lot of depressing days,” Jack said. “Coming up to this new year, I want to start to work harder to help myself get to where I want to be.”

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