WEST LOOP — Fifty surgeries in three months. Five strokes in one day. Fifty percent of a brain removed.
Anthony Jaime, turned 20 years old in a hospital bed Tuesday and his mother, Nancy Arroyo, bravely soldiers on.
"Every morning when he wakes up I tell him not to be scared," Arroyo said. "We've got each other."
On Thursday, coworkers of Arroyo, who works as community coordinator for the Chicago Alternative Policing (CAPS) program, will host a second fundraiser for Jaime, who was in a serious car accident Dec. 8.
A freshman engineering student at Southern Illinois University in downstate Carbondale, he and four other students were traveling in a car in Jefferson County when they were struck by another car.
After four months at Barnes-Jewish Hospital of St. Louis, Anthony Jaime, who was in the back seat of the car during the accident, was transferred to Holy Family Hospital in Des Plaines three weeks ago, Arroyo said.
A fundraiser to help pay for medical expenses not covered by insurance, and to modify their home to make it handicap accessible, will take place at the Fraternal Order of Police Hall, 1412 W. Washington Blvd. from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursday.
Arroyo, a 13 year veteran of the police department who is nearing the end of 12 weeks of unpaid family medical leave, has remained by her son's side since the accident and sleeps next to him on a reclining chair.
The days can often be long due to how her son's brain injury can sometimes cause Jaime to stay awake "for two days straight," Arroyo said.
She joked: "He has an IV drip. I have a coffee drip."
Since her son has lost his vision, Arroyo said she tells him what the weather looks like outside the window.
"He is doing much better and is more stable [than before]. But it's ongoing, with him still in the hospital, just a lot of stuff up in the air," Arroyo said.
Anthony Jaime undergoes physical, occupational and speech therapy multiple times each day and needs to learn how to feed himself, brush his teeth, comb his hair and walk, among other basic tasks.
While physical therapists are "doing everything possible to get him moving again," Arroyo said the closest her son has gotten with walking is briefly standing.
As her son will not completely recover his sight and will remain in a wheelchair until he can walk again, Arroyo said her home needs to be modified with a wheelchair ramp when he returns from the hospital.
Liz Rios, a friend and coworker of Arroyo who helped to organize a benefit in December, said the Thursday fundraiser, which is planned by Near West District employees, will "assist with any medical expenses she may need to make it comfortable for [Anthony Jaime] when insurance runs out."
Arroyo, 39, a mother of two who became a first-time home buyer two years ago, credited past fundraising efforts and support from friends and family as saving her from foreclosure.
"Being a single mom and taking care of her kids and making sure there's a roof over both her sons' heads is why we're doing this fundraiser, "said Rios.
In addition to dozens of friends, family and coworkers as well as community members who know Arroyo through the CAPS program, three nurses from Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis who worked with Anthony Jaime are planning to drive up to Chicago for the fundraiser.
Arroyo said Tuesday she is not sure if she will make it to the fundraiser since she has not left her son for more than a few hours since the accident.
"I'm trying to see if I can go, to greet everybody.... At the same time I'm panicking and don't want to leave him," Arroyo said.
A 2012 graduate of Rauner College Prep High School in West Town, Jaime was in the midst of his second week of finals when the accident occurred, said Arroyo.
About 350 tickets have already been sold but more are available, including at the door on the night of the event. Tickets are $20 and participants are automatically entered in a $500 raffle.
Contact Sgt. Juan Clas in the Near West Police District office at 312-746-8306 for more information.
Donations (c/o Nancy Arroyo: Friends of Anthony Jaime) can be mailed to Chicago Patrolman's Federal Credit Union, 1407 W. Washington Blvd., Chicago, IL 60607.