Despite life-changing moment that left him a paraplegic, Jackson Larson remains optimistic

By Rachel Kytonen

Even though his life is forever changed by the November incident, Jackson Larson remains upbeat, and positive about his future.

On Nov. 3, Jackson was picking up a friend for school. His car had slipped out of park into reverse, and Jackson tried to stop it. In doing so, he suffered a spinal cord injury, and fractured several vertebrae.

Pictured with Jackson Larson are his parents, Mary Norton-Larson and Fizz Larson, of Cambridge. Photo by Rachel Kytonen

Jackson was flown to Hennepin County Medical Center and admitted into the Intensive Care Unit. As a result of his injuries, Jackson, 16, is now a paraplegic.

However, Jackson and his family remain grateful.

“While in the ICU family waiting room at HCMC, we heard another family down the hall screaming and crying who were dealing with a death,” said Jackson’s mother, Mary Norton-Larson. “It gave us a perspective that even though Jackson is seriously hurt, he’s safe and he’s alive.”

A benefit for “Action” Jackson Larson will be held Saturday, April 30, from 5 to 9 p.m. at Cambridge United Methodist Church. The festivities will include dinner, silent auction, live music and a bake sale. The MC for the benefit will be Joan Steffend, Cambridge-Isanti High School graduate, author, radio host, public speaker and HGTV host of “Decorating Cents.”

Mary said proceeds from the benefit will go toward purchasing rehabilitation equipment, and expenses not covered by medical insurance.

Jackson underwent an eight-hour spinal fusion surgery on Nov. 5, and was in the ICU for about a week. On Nov. 16, Jackson was admitted into Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul to begin his in-patient rehabilitation therapy.

Jackson Larson was one of the first patients to use the new Rehabilitation Therapies space at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, which opened in late December. Occupational therapist Lisa Rounds, and Jackson’s brother, Bennett Larson, provide support as Jackson worked to regain his strength. Photo by Gillette Children’s Speciality Healthcare

Mary, an attorney, and her husband Fizz, a construction contractor, are life-long residents of the Cambridge area, and appreciate everyone’s support.

“While Jackson was in the hospital he would get hundreds of cards from his friends and his Sunday School kids, offering words of support,” Mary said. “He also had close family and loyal friends come down and visit him. The outpouring of support we have received from the entire community has been amazing.”

Jackson, a junior at CIHS, also taught Sunday School and helped out during Wednesday afternoon and evening kids’ events at Cambridge United Methodist.

“I love being around kids, and hope to be an elementary school teacher when I grow up,” Jackson said.

Fizz said the journey has been hard, but they are trying to make the best of the situation.

“Jackson has really come a long way with this,” Fizz said. “We just love him so much, and we pray with him a lot. I’ve never gone through so much pain in my life, and I’ve had my share of injuries and things. But we tell Jackson to keep focusing on his strengths, and tell him to make the most of his life, and he does have a bright future ahead of him. We take it one day and challenge at a time.”

“He’s still the same Jackson that we know and love,” Mary said. “He’s just sitting now.”

Jackson continues to play the sports he enjoys, and is on the CIHS Adapted Bowling team, which is going to State again this year, and hopes to participate more actively next fall with the Rolling Gophers basketball team.

“I’m still trying to be positive and adjust to the new lifestyle, but I feel lucky to be alive,” Jackson said. “I’m just still trying to adapt to everything.”

The Larson family was fond of the facilities at Gillette, and had much praise for the staff.

“My highlight memory of Gillette would be during activity nights where the kids would get wheeled out of their rooms and do different activities and crafts together,” Fizz said. “They really have a dedicated staff there, and Jackson and others were well cared for.”

Jackson was one of the first patients to use the Rehabilitations Therapies space, located inside Gillette, that opened in late December. The new space area for physical, occupational, and speech and language therapy is spacious and full of natural light.

Since Jackson was in the hospital for Thanksgiving and Christmas, family members brought food that they all could enjoy in one of Gillette’s family rooms. And Gillette also did their part to make Christmas enjoyable for the kids, and had Santa visiting often and giving out gifts to the children.

“The Gillette staff and other families of patients there really became part of our family,” Mary said.

On Dec. 31, Jackson returned home. With the help of family and friends, a handicap ramp was built inside the family garage, and some remodeling inside the home was done as well to accommodate Jackson’s wheelchair. The family dining room is now Jackson’s bedroom, and Mary’s clothes closet became Jackson’s bathroom, which connects to his bedroom.

Jackson also has used a “Stander” on a trial basis at home for rehabilitation. Jackson is able to transfer himself out of the wheelchair and into the “Stander” to allow for rehabilitation exercises, including standing upright. The Larsons are hopeful that a “Stander” will become a part of Jackson’s permanent medical equipment since he enjoys using it so much.

Jackson continues his out-patient rehabilitation therapy, and attends the Courage Center in Golden Valley. He had been going four days a week, and now is down to three days a week.

He is also back to attending classes at CIHS, and said the district is very accommodating to his schedule.

“At first I was kind of nervous about getting around the halls, but being back in school is fun,” Jackson said. “People say ‘hi’ to me in the halls, and I enjoy some of the freedoms I’ve been receiving.”

Jackson is excited to go to prom, and has been watching some wheelchair dancing videos online.

Mary said Jackson has handled everything the best way he possibly could.

“Jackson has made this easy on us,” Mary said. “When I think of what he could be like, negative and down all the time … He does have his moments, but they are extremely few and far between. Jackson is amazingly positive.”

Fizz said they remain hopeful for the future.

“Jackson does want to walk again, and we are hoping that may be possible again, some day,” Fizz said.

“We are hopeful this will happen in Jackson’s lifetime, with all the continuing advancements in technology,” Mary added.

Mary said they couldn’t have gotten through this ordeal without the support they received. Mary said they received gift cards to local home improvement stores, many delicious home-delivered meals, gas cards, pizza and other restaurant gift cards, and help with cleaning the home.

“We have a great support system including our church family at Cambridge UMC and other friends and family; and we know God is watching over us,” Mary said. “We know we had 1000’s of prayers for us, and we thank everyone for taking such good care of us. We live in a very caring and kind community.”

For more information about Jackson’s ongoing story of therapy and recovery, visit Jackson Larson’s CaringBridge site: