Rural Freeport – A sign with the word BELIEVE greets people entering Jesse and Julie Job’s rural Freeport house; home to their children, Peyton, 11; Isaiah, 8; and Lilah, 4.

They have leaned on that word – and hope – during the last six months as Jesse recovers from a traumatic brain injury. Prayers and support have been plentiful as people continue showering them with love.

Jesse smiles on Feb. 5, sitting around the kitchen table with Julie, as she says doctors call Jesse a “walking miracle.” 

He’s still not where he wants to be, but he’s come a long way.

“I wanna say words. I can see ‘em. But sometimes I can’t say ‘em,” he said, minutes later adding “I’m alive though.”

Their life revolves around family and Charlie’s Cafe, which they purchased on Feb. 15, 2007.  Julie shares the story about how she found out it was Jesse’s mission to one day own this cafe, where he had worked since he was 14. Jesse took Julie to Charlie’s Cafe for a meal during their second prom. 

“He looked at me and said, ‘I’m gonna buy this place someday,” Julie said. “I laughed. At the time I wasn’t even thinking about marrying this guy.” 

Jesse has another memory of that night.

“You spilled diet coke on your white dress,” he said.  

They got married 13 years ago and will own Charlie’s Cafe 13 years on Feb. 15, where they work together.  

February 15 is also the six-month mark of the accident, which happened on Aug. 15, 2019. The day before Julie and the boys got tasks done so the boys could go on a hunting trip with their dad the next day. That night they played Carbles and Scrabble as a family.  Julie put their children to bed and, since she had to work at the cafe in the morning, she went to bed, knowing Jesse was packing his truck for hunting the next day.  

The next morning she found Jesse laying at the bottom of the steps in the garage, unresponsive. She called 911. 

“There are four Freeport fireman who live cross-country and when they heard the address and the words, ‘a 38-year-old man,’ they knew it was Jesse. They didn’t go to the fire hall. They came right here,” Julie said, adding, “They were impeccable, (all firefighters and EMTs who responded)  and for them we will be forever grateful.” 

As a nurse, she put the pieces together about what could have happened before the Melrose ambulance arrived, knowing he must have sustained a head injury.   

Tests at the St. Cloud Hospital determined Jesse had a large brain bleed on the lower left side of his brain, the verbal powerhouse they called it. They knew his speech would probably be impaired, but didn’t know the severity of it and if it would be life-long, Julie said. That bleed also meant he wasn’t able to move the right side of his body.  He had two smaller bleeds and three skull fractures. 

“I was told there was a very good chance he would never walk again because his injury was so severe on the left side and he had no movement at all on the right side, and he would be lucky to get 80% of his speech back,” Julie said.  

On day 4, after she was over the shock of what had happened, Julie started journaling, which helped her cope. 

 “And I prayed and prayed and prayed,” she said.

Jesse was placed in a coma, with hope the bleeds and fractures would start healing. Thankfully he never needed surgery. Doctors said he could be in the coma for months, but day 10 they were able to take Jesse out of his coma. 

He recognized Julie and their children. 

“He looked at me and had a smile on his face and the tears just flowed,” Julie said. 

Day four post-coma he said his first word.

“They were gibberish. Nothing made sense. It was so hard and frustrating, but I couldn’t show him I was frustrated. I had to be strong,” Julie said.  

Then he stood for the first time, taking his first steps on day 18. Julie cried with joy. 

“You never realize how the little things are the things that mean the most until you’re in this situation,” Julie said. 

Julie, who never left Jesse’s side, said, “God didn’t give me a choice.” She made sure every avenue of their lives was taken care of, with the mentality she was “running a big ship and if I went under the whole ship would go under.”

Their children lived with Julie’s parents Erma and Ronnie Bertram, who moved from Spring Hill to Freeport 10 years ago. They brought the children to the hospital almost nightly when Jesse was in the St. Cloud Hospital and on weekends when he was at Bethesda Hospital.  Other family and friends pitched in so Julie could stay with Jesse. Their Charlie’s Cafe family was truly amazing.  

“They ALL helped out and picked up shifts to cover.  Shannon Ritter and Katelyn Duclos ran it flawlessly,” Julie said.  “I knew with them two in charge, I could be at Jesse’s side and not have to worry at all, because that’s how amazing those two are!”

After several weeks in the intensive care unit at the St. Cloud Hospital Jesse was transferred to Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul for rehabilitation. 

“He literally had to learn how to talk and walk again,” Julie said. 

The Jobs were told there were many stages to a brain injury, verified during discussions with the wives of two men Julie knew who were also dealing with TBIs. 

“Jesse went through all of the stages. It was textbook-like,” Julie said. 

The middle stages where the most challenging as Jesse became aggressive.  

“I kept thinking they were trying to hurt me,” Jesse said. “But they were trying to help me.” 

On Sept. 9 (their 13th anniversary) Jesse took a turn for the better. 

“Jesse would always spoil me on our anniversary and special days and this must have been my anniversary gift,” Julie said.

He was far less aggressive and much calmer. 

“I prayed this change would last and we were moving to the next stage,” Julie said.  

They were told his recovery was going to be like running a marathon, not a sprint.  Baby steps was another phrase often used.

Neurology tests indicated the bleeds never got worse, but it took until December for the body to absorb the bleeds and the skull fractures to improve.  

Jesse returned to the St. Cloud Hospital for therapy, and 40 days after the accident he was released home, with outpatient therapy at the Centracare Plaza. 

Julie became Jesse’s 24-hour caregiver at home. 

“He had a high risk of having seizures, a lot of dizziness and was not super steady on his feet yet,” she said.  “They also stressed the importance of him not being alone in case he had another fall so early in the recovery.”  

Knowing staff was running the cafe so well, Julie was able to take three months off during Jesse’s recovery. She returned to work the end of November, smiling as she said, “My face is not his face, though, and customers sure miss his face!” 

Julie and Jesse have lived on hope since Aug. 15. 

“I had hope and prayed that he would come back to me, and I keep having hope. I’ve got all of these wonderful gifts that say HOPE,” Julie said.  

Ongoing prayers have been the biggest thing. 

“I tell people without the prayers we never would have gotten to this point,” she said. 

Since day one, people supported them with thoughts, messages, cards, calls, fundraisers, donations, Christmas presents, meal trains and so many other things, which Julie said they truly appreciate. 

“I agree,” Jesse said. 

Fr. Dan (Walz) came to see Jesse every day in the ICU. 

“And he prayed with me and anointed Jesse every day,” Julie said. “He was a complete blessing to Jesse and me.”

She adds, “And there aren’t even words to say how thankful we are to Sacred Heart School, people in the communities, our Charlie’s Cafe family, and our dedicated customers.” 

Fr. Dan reminded her that some couples wouldn’t make it through a challenging time like this.

“To me, marriage is forever,” Julie said. “You face whatever God gives you head on.” 

The Jobs are humbled when they see people continuing to wear the blue “Jesse’s Journey” bracelets sold soon after the accident. Julie and Jesse still have theirs on as they have hope for a full recovery. 

Jesse continues to improve, while knowing – but not always liking – his limitations. Speech therapy is three times a week and occupational therapy is once a week. He has monthly visits with his neurologist and primary doctor.   

His best therapy is being around their children, which is a two-way street. 

“They have adjusted so well and have been through so much. If anything good comes out of this, I hope it’s that it makes them realize the importance of family and love and how fast your life can change,” Julie said, adding, “I hope it makes them wonderful and strong adults.”  

 Julie said Jesse is great around the house, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, shoveling snow, and playing with their children.

“We literally prepped our supper together today,” she said. 

When asked what he will get is wife for Valentine’s Day, he said “25 cents!” 

“See, he’s got his sense of humor back!” Julie said.

“He’s such an inspiration to so many people,” she adds.

Physically and cognitively Jesse is 100% but he struggles to read and write and at times what he is saying is like playing a game of charades. They don’t dwell on what he can’t do, they just work hard every day.   

Julie gets emotional remembering the first time post-fall when Jesse said, “That’s my wife,” something he frequently said before his fall. 

“I journaled that I wondered if he would ever say that to me again or if he would surprise me with fresh flowers as he often did or just do all the little things he always did. And on Dec. 23 he came home with flowers. He remembered and I cried so hard,” a teary-eyed Julie said.

She tells her husband all the time that he is her life and she will do anything for him. 

“If this is as good as you get, I’ll still keep you around,” Julie said looking at her smiling husband, adding, “This is our life. It’s a different way of life, but it’s our life and we just do it.” 

Thanks to continued love, support and prayers, Jesse continues his miraculous journey.