Jordan Gray knows from personal experience the difference that holistic, high-quality, and trauma-informed care can make in a patients’ life.
In May of 2021, driving through the streets of Palm Beach Island on a work trip, the gas pedal of Gray’s golf cart malfunctioned. He leaned over to fix it, and the cart swerved left, hitting a telephone pole at 30 mph. The impact threw him head-first into the street. What happened next would change the course of the rest of his life.
Gray’s head and face injuries from the accident were extensive. He was rushed to the local hospital where he underwent emergency surgery to relieve the extensive bleeding and pressure in his brain. Over the next few days, with his family by his side, Gray would undergo additional brain and reconstructive face surgeries. Even after his condition stabilized, his long-term prognosis was unclear. Would he wake up from his drug-induced coma? Would he be able to walk again or talk again? Would he be able to see? Gray’s doctors were hopeful, but they warned that recovery from his injuries would take months, if not years.
Gray needed extensive physical and psychological therapy. Fortunately, he had spent his career building an insurance brokerage firm before selling it to a global brokerage firm, NFP. Almost 10 years later, Gray continues to work for this company as the Managing Director. As a result, he had an incredible network of support from his family, friends, and business associates and access to top-tier medical and therapeutic resources. After a month in the ICU, Gray moved to a traumatic brain injury center close to home. He followed that with a 35-day stay at a rehabilitation center in Florida. He spent September and October at the New Jersey shore, receiving extensive outpatient rehabilitation. “I sat on the beach and counted waves,” he said. “And I did therapeutic activities that were recommended.”
In mid-October 2021, five months after the accident, Gray’s brain “turned back on.” “All of a sudden, I could remember everything that I couldn’t remember,” Gray said. “Things just started to flow back into my head…. Every day it became a little bit better.” By January of 2022, Gray was back at work. He was profoundly grateful for his recovery and determined to give back to the community that had shown him so much support.
Gray knew that his ability to follow this journey to recovery was possible because he had the means to do so. At the same time, he realized that many people in his community did not have the means or connections to create a similar treatment path for themselves. Gray set out on a mission to find a way to build up support for people in his community, looking for charities in the area that would resonate with his personal experience. Gray partnered with Marygrace Billek, Director at the Mercer County Human Services, to identify non-profit organizations that aligned with his values. They found about 350 charities in Trenton, and narrowed the possibilities down to four or five and researched those. One of those he visited was Henry J. Austin Health Center (HJAHC). To his surprise, when Gray visited the health center, he was welcomed by a familiar face, the newly appointed chief development and communications officer, Elona Deprez. They had previously worked together at a different organization. During the visit he also met Dr. Alli, CEO; and Dr. Evans, chief medical officer, who told him about the center’s goals to have all needed health services available at one location. They explained overwhelming barriers the Trenton community face in accessing health care, such as lack of transportation, finding time for health care when they often work two or three part-time jobs, and going to different doctors on different days.
When Gray realized that the center offered such a unique health care experience for its patients, including behavioral health, he decided it was a perfect fit for creating the difference he had in mind. He had experienced a complex medical situation, going from the hospital to rehabilitation to mental health care. “When I got out, I had to commit for my self-care and figure out what I needed,” he said. “I was lucky to be able to do that, but other people who go through anything like this might not know what to do or be able to afford it…. When you get one thing done, and it leads to five other things. Being able to do those all together in one center and by people you trust is crucial.” Now, Gray is working with HJAHC as they increase their services and reach more people in the community. He wants to help bring in more funders and other supporters to the center to help them meet their ambitious goals.
His arrival on HJAHC’s doorstep comes at a fortuitous time. The center is building its fund development program to raise more private fundraising capital. Gray hopes to assist HJAHC’s philanthropic initiatives by connecting them to various industry partners and organizations.
Gray is turning his misfortune into a passion for helping the Trenton community via HJAHC. “Raising awareness at the corporate and individual levels can help us accomplish HJAHC’s goals to treat more people with more services, in more areas,” he said. With a donation to HJAHC, you also can have a positive impact on many lives in Trenton and Mercer County.