Jacob Savoie is a determined and hard working student at L.S.U., balancing both a full semester of courses and two separate jobs, interning with a local engineering firm and waiting tables at an upscale steakhouse.  It’s during one hectic Mardi Gras season that Jacob’s busy life and low immune system would collide, contracting a mysteriously rare illness.  Although, at first, it seemed to be just a cold or flu, it quickly became a downward spiral.

As days passed, it was Jacob’s inability to eat, drink, or even talk, which started to raise the concerns of his roommate brother, Jonathan. The day that he called home to talk about Jacob, the family was at home enjoying the festivities of the annual Mardi Gras parade, which passed in front their home. When the time finally came for his parents, Keith and Jackie, to leave home for the hospital, police officers had to be brought in to clear a crowd of hundreds of parade spectators for them to exit for the interstate.


After several agonizing tests at the hospital, the neurologist diagnosed Jacob with Encephalitis.

Encephalitis [en-sef-uh-lahy-tis], noun. Def:  An acute inflammation of the brain which can cause flu-like symptoms, such as a fever or severe headaches, as well as confused thinking, seizures, or problems with senses or movement. (1)

Not only did Jacob’s physical appearance change without eating, the same thing also happened to his personal character and memory.  For days, Jacob could barely talk, only putting together short, incomplete sentences before zoning out.  He couldn’t remember his family’s names and instead called them by a number.  He also, confidently and awkwardly, called his ex-girlfriend a zero in person.

During Jacob’s recovery at the hospital, each of his family members took turns sleeping on the small visitor bed to watch over and keep him company. Since he had lost the ability to identify common items, it was Jacob’s friend from the steakhouse, Marty, that visited him and labeled every possible item in his room with duct tape and a marker. The next day, when a recovery therapist asked Jacob to name several of the items around them, Jacob was able to impress her for a short time, raising his confidence.


When Jacob was finally released and sent home, the family continued to watch over him closely, often surprised daily by his questionable actions.  They were in awe when he sadly misinterpreted Herpes Simplex Encephalitis for a sexually transmitted disease, forgot how to make coffee, and had trouble identifying a wrench. One day, Jacob happily showed a complete stranger from the street around their home, which was currently on the market, with no one else there for aid. 

Over time, the negative effects of Jacob’s encephalitis continued to grow, which no one could control or predict.  At work, Jackie was taking multiple phone calls from Jacob every day, each call a new idea or question.  Many of Jacob’s friends were personally offended when he couldn’t remember who they were.  Then Jacob alarmed everyone when he reached out to made amends with the victim of their unfortunate vehicle accident years ago, emotionally damaging the girl in recalling the event.


After several months staying at home, Jacob took the next steps and moved back to Baton Rouge, where he returned to work with the engineering firm. While there, Jacob’s poor decisions continued the day he decided impulsively to quit the job, then, realizing his mistake, came back to beg for the position again.  Another time, Jacob had the strange idea to completely change the company’s internet policies, so decided to speak with their IT team and then went all the way to CEO’s office to make his point, only to be scolded by management for his actions. 

But throughout all the struggles, there were some positive signs that began to show along the way.  One day, Jacob was asked by an old classmate to do a good deed and take in a group of traveling college students on adventure paddling down the Mississippi River.  Jacob didn’t think twice and brought them in, got them cleaned up and fed, even stay a night, and then wished them well they went on their way.  Then when Jacob and Jonathan were notified their rent was going up, Jacob took it upon himself to find a cheaper apartment, then had the idea to sell some old furniture on the main street to make some extra money.


Finally, Jacob’s biggest challenge came when he enrolled in a summer course to prepare him for his repeat of his final semester, upcoming in the fall.  For the short eight week semester, he was put to the test to show that he had healed enough to learn, study, and apply his brain functions back to the task at hand – a college degree.  After he proudly passed the course, he was ready for the fall semester and his recovery was nearly complete, coming full circle back to school.  His graduation day came in December and the entire family was there to cheer for him on that memorable day.

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