By Tami Shepherd
“Elements,” A photography show currently on display in the 4000 building features the photography of LPC student Ian Jones. The photos on display tell many stories, but one story they do not tell is the story of the story of the creator – the element behind the camera.
Ian, a 38-year-old photography major, has always risen above any challenge that he has had to face. He has cheated death and overcome the challenge of living with a disability.
Ian can be viewed as an inspiration to many. Through all of life’s adversities his focus has remained steadfast, as he pursues his personal answer to the premier collegiate query – what do I want to do?
Ian was born with Neural Tube Defect (NTD), a condition in which the spinal cord has an opening where nerves poke out in a little sack. From that point on there are no nerve impulses.
“I’m pretty lucky that it happened down there,” Ian said as he pointed to his lower back. “You know I’m pretty altogether.”
When Ian was born he was not expected to live very long. If he did, he would most likely be institutionalized, in and out of hospitals and enduring surgery after surgery.
Ian’s prognosis was grim, but even at birth he defied the odds.
Ian’s father, LPC Psychology Professor Ernie Jones, noticed a special mental strength in his child at an early age.
“With all the challenges it could have been really difficult,” Ernie said. “But Ian’s easy-going temperament made things a little easier. He has had such a love for life, nothing ever held him back.”
When he was three years old, Ian’s dad came home from work one day to find his toddler writing. He didn’t have a crayon and scratch paper, he was at a typewriter, with glasses on his head, using his little fingers to peck away.
Ian’s childhood was just like anyone else. He went to school and played with friends. He hit a rough patch in middle school where some of the kids teased and bullied him, but he did have his family and friends who supported him.
Then he found LPC.
Once again Ian had to find the courage within him for another one of life’s challenges, as he started experiencing headaches in 2004. They eventually led to seizures.
CT Scans and MRI’s all came up normal, but before the big question was answered, it was ‘Jake’ the cat who saved Ian’s life.
The night before he was to be admitted to the hospital, Ian had a seizure so strong that it knocked him out of his bed. He landed on his neck, cutting off his airway.
Jake heard Ian fall out of the bed and ran to Ian’s parents’ room. He howled until Ian’s mother woke up. When she got up she discovered Ian and administered CPR until EMTs arrived.
“I owe her and that cat my life, really,” Ian said.
Ian was put on anti-seizure medication, which works by slowing down the brain, so that neurons are not firing as much. He hated the feeling the meds gave him.
“Problem is it slows the whole brain, so you can’t think,” Ian said. “You can’t function. You’re just a blob.”
Desperate to get off all the medications, he started researching alternative therapies. He even considered radical treatments such as deep-brain stimulations.
“There was one day when I just said, ‘I’ve had enough,’” Ian said.
His research led him to a surgery called Vagus Nerve Stimulation, which was still in testing stages.
After watching an hour-long video on the procedure, Ian consulted his doctor, and had the surgery in 2006.
Ernie explained the procedure; “under the skin they run a wire from a pacemaker in the chest up to a nerve in your neck that goes into the brain. This pacemaker stimulates the brain through that wire.”
The risk of the surgery paid off. The Seizures are now under control with mild medications. The only side effect is his voice changes slightly, a little softer when the device goes off every five minutes.
Ian’s father has always dreamed that Ian would find something that he enjoyed and just wants him to be happy. The best advice that he gave him was “It’s OK to be you.”
Ian is no longer writing. Photography is the way he expresses his creativity now. He photographs anything from landscape to bugs and flowers.
“I’m going to run with it for a bit,” Ian said, “See where it goes.”