Jill Junck Speaks Of How Family Copes Following Son’s Shaken Baby Syndrome Injuries

daladiesniteout-elginreview2015_6374By Lynell Morgan   ©The Elgin Review

Well over 200 women were treated to fine dining, an attentive wait staff and a story of meeting life’s challenges head on last week. The Elgin Knights of Columbus hosted their annual “Da Ladies Nite Out” on April 8. Guest speaker for the evening was Jill Junck of Randolph, NE. Jill has lifelong ties to Elgin as her mother, Janice Mollhoff, is the daughter of the late John and Irma Hoefer of Elgin.
When Jill was growing up in Tilden, she surely had all the usual dreams of adulthood that little girls have. She would meet her Prince Charming who would sweep her off her feet, have a career where she enjoyed going to work every day, live in a house with a white picket fence, she would have perfect little children who never got their clothes dirty or sassed back to Mom and Dad.
She got her Prince Charming when she married Scott Junck in 2003. She loves her job as a Registered Nurse at Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk. It may not have a picket fence but she is loving life on the farm just south and east of Randolph. Her three boys are sweet as could be and perfect – perfect for her and Scott.
One could say Jill is living the dream but, unlike the fairy tales, life isn’t  “happily ever after”. Life is full of high’s and low’s, proven as Jill shared her story to the people in attendance.
She opened the evening with a recent true story that seems to sum up her life over the last seven years.
Some Kinda Luck
“A couple of weeks ago I was helping out at work, I went in extra that night – it was busy and I leave around midnight-one, before going home I had to go to Walmart. Everybody dreads going to Walmart after work but I do it.  I’m the only normal person there, you’ve got all the weird employees stocking and the younger drunk crowd. You stick to the list and you get your stuff and get out.  So I was almost there, less than a block away, and I get pulled over. I already know, I had told Scott to fix my headlight. Sure enough, he gives me a ticket for the headlight…. He asked if I was going to change it, I said ‘well, not right now because I don’t have one’ but I’ll remind him again, it’ll get taken care of.”
“So I get to Walmart, do my list and I did pretty good – it was under $100. I’m on my way (home), another few blocks. Forty-four minutes and pulled over again. I bet no one in this room can say they’ve gotten that….that’s what kind of luck we have. We have some bad luck and it’s not that we’re not blessed, we’re very blessed but that’s the kind of stuff that happens.”
The Juncks were blessed with their first child, a son Chase, in 2006. Jill, like most first-time moms, had the usual fears and doubts about leaving her baby in someone else’s care.  “I was very apprehensive to let anybody take care of him. My friend Amy would tease me, ‘you’re going to have to let go of him sometime,” she said. When Jill first went back to work, her husband Scott watched him. “It worked until he was going to get into the field and he said ‘he can’t be with me all the time’”.  Scott’s younger brother had a child with his girlfriend and she was taking care of their child at home so it seemed a perfect opportunity for both families. Everything seemed to be falling into place. Its often said that when life seems to be going smooth, that’s when that ole bad luck raises it’s ugly head.
The Day Life Changed
For the Junck’s, bad luck paid a visit the day they received word that Chase was suddenly unresponsive at the babysitter’s, March 19, 2008.
“The day I got the worse phone call of my life, at work” says Junck. “Scott called me and said (she) just called and Chase wouldn’t wake up. Not normal for a fifteen-month-old to not be able to wake up. I asked him ‘what’s wrong?’ He said ‘I don’t know yet, I’m on my way. She’s trying to call me’ so I hang up so he can talk to her. We eventually are speaking again. He said ‘Chase doesn’t look good, he doesn’t look normal. He’s barely breathing, he doesn’t look okay.’ By then, paramedics had (been) dispatched and (were) there and they’re saying they don’t think he’s going to be okay. I’m at work and I’m already hearing our Lifenet helicopter take off. I know who thats for.”  Chase was flown to Mercy Medical in Sioux City, IA.
“When we got there, he was already gone to surgery. He had gone from ER straight to the CAT scan. His brain looked terrible and from the CAT scan he went to OR. And that’s when we got there. The only person that was there to talk to us was the clergy – the spiritual care person. That was very kind of him but it doesn’t give you a lot of hope.”
“You think of these crazy things. All I could think of were these little shoes (she held up a pair of small brown shoes) – they had just come in the mail the night before. He had them on, he thought they were so funny that night. He tried them on, he’d tromp around and he’d laugh. He’d look down at the shoes and look at Scott and I and he would laugh. I could not get those shoes out of my mind ‘cause all I thought is that I’m going to have to bury my baby in those shoes.”
Significant brain bleeding and subsequent swelling required that a bone flap (a cut in the skull bone and removal of bone) be made to allow for the swelling. Over the course of several days his head would swell so badly that his face became featureless. Also, during those critical first hours, Chase had coded (his heart stopped beating) twice.
Those days were tough emotionally and mentally on the family. After his initial treatment at Mercy, Children’s Hospital in Omaha accepted him as a patient and MercyAirCare transported him with crew member ‘Kevin’ promising Jill that he wouldn’t let him die. Before the flight left for Omaha, Jill was given a hazmat baggie with a clipping of Chase’s hair so she could keep a part of him with her.  Chase didn’t look good and he was given only a 20% chance of surviving.
A Freak Accident?
The story being told at the time to everyone was that he had fallen off of the couch. But Chase’s injuries suggested something much worse. It was at Children’s that the Juncks first questioned the cause of Chase’s injuries. “It just wasn’t adding up,” she said. “At the time, you’re so in the middle of it, you can’t step back and see what all my family saw and all the staff and nurses – what all of them were seeing looking from the outside”. She asked the doctor at Omaha, “Is it just one in a million? That he hit his head just right by falling off the couch? There’s no other way this can happen — you don’t bleed that bad, you don’t need half of your skull removed, you don’t need two helicopters, I just don’t get it. He looked at me and shook his head and he walked away.”
“We prayed and prayed and prayed from the time it happened, well, we’re still praying today,” she said. “I’m almost ashamed of it at times, what I prayed for that night. But from what Chase can tell us now, maybe not.” What did she pray for? “I made what a thought was a deal with God, that if Chase can’t have a good life, if he can’t have a good quality life, to take him that night. Don’t make him suffer, don’t make him hurt, just take him then”. Morning came and Chase was still with them. At that time, they committed themselves to do absolutely everything they had to do to help him have that good life.

Read the complete story in this week’s print edition of The Elgin Review