The Deep End Of The Ocean: The Jeff Main Story
by: Kim Cass
“Sometimes you find yourself in the deep end of the ocean and life is never the same again.”
Note: Some details & photos are graphic in nature. Please use reader discretion. As I wrote this article, I questioned how much detail to get into. Some images and details may be disturbing to readers. I came to the conclusion that for readers to fully grasp the scope of the story, it was necessary to use detail. Without the detail, the story loses its integrity. This is an insider’s look at the triumph of the human spirit, coming back from the brink of death and remaining positive through it all.
The Deep End Of The Ocean
It started as a sunny, 70 degree day. November 27, 2005. The day that changed Jeff Main’s life forever. He was enjoying his drive down a winding road in his convertible at around 45 to 50 mph. He had the top down and there was a cool breeze. Life was good. At home, his wife and three small kids were waiting for him. He was on his way to meet his wife for a date night. What happened next would change his life forever.
As he drove, he suddenly heard someone yell. Startled, he ducked and jerked the steering wheel to the left. In an instant, he lost control of the car. He hit the brakes, but it was too late. He recalled a weightless feeling similar to the negative g’s felt when riding a roller coaster. The back end of his car slid out and flew straight for a ditch on the left side of the road.
His left leg was thrown through the windshield. He felt it crush. But his face took the brunt of the trauma and force when it hit the top windshield bar. The car hit with so much violence that the rear end spun around going airborne and flew end over end. When the car finally landed with a thud, Jeff was still buckled in.
“Back then, my only problem was pride. I thought I was invincible.”
A photo of the car after the crash
All Jeff felt was pain. He knew instinctually that he had to get help, or he would die. There was blood, teeth and bone protruding from his face. He spotted a house and started to head toward it. He said he tried walking, but the pain was excruciating. A pain that to this day he cannot begin to describe. He knew he couldn’t die. His wife, Mellissa and three kids, Jacob, Rebekah, and Dylan were at home waiting for him. By the grace of God, the homeowners were home that night – a night they normally would not have been. Jeff somehow pulled his broken body up their gravel driveway. If they hadn’t found him and called for help, he would have died at their front door. But God had other plans.
I was surprised that Jeff remembers what happened next. Most people who experience these life & death traumas don’t have the vivid, detailed memories that this man does. The first to respond on the scene was a Pinellas County Deputy. Jeff remembers thinking “my wife is gonna be really upset with me for wrecking the car.” It was surreal. Within minutes, the ambulance was there. He lay in the driveway in agony, trying to put his face back together, still not fully aware of the scope of his injuries. A Bayflight helicopter arrived to air lift him to the nearest hospital. “I believe I died during that flight” he told me quietly. He remembers landing on the roof of the hospital. It was there that he finally allowed himself to fall into a dark sleep.
“That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”
He flat lined between six and seven times and was in a coma for the next six weeks in the ICU at Bayfront Medical Center. He was in the hospital from November 26-2005 to January 1, 2006. He has only vague, strange, hallucinogenic memories. He recalled seeing his wife crying, standing over him with a nurse. They were talking and he tried to scream out “I’m ok. I’m here!” but he couldn’t make a sound. They didn’t hear him.
Jeff Main before the accident.
“I am here by the grace of God. The doctors told me that my body tried very hard to die. My face was literally ripped in half and crushed, starting below the lower jaw and neck. My airway was so severely damaged that every time I attempted to take a breath, it collapsed.” Jeff explained. Doctors were sure he’d spend the rest of his life on a ventilator, but God had other plans.
As he slowly came out of the coma, his thoughts were “what will my three kids think of daddy?” He hoped and prayed they’d forgive him for missing Christmas. He told me his wife was invaluable at keeping the faces of their three children in front of him, next to his hospital bed. To this day, he still believes that if his wife had not placed those pictures there, he would have had a hard time not giving up. She stayed by his side for the long haul.
The fun loving couple. Jeff and his wife Mellissa before the accident.
Every day was an uphill battle. He could sense the death and struggle that was going on all around him in the ICU. “The ICU nurses are some of the most devoted people that I have ever had the misfortune of meeting” he said. In the weeks that followed, he did plenty of soul searching in that ICU. He pictured himself walking again, eating and breathing on his own and doing amazing things with his life. He believed in his heart that he would get to do all of those things again. The doctors had almost given up on him, but he remembered one nurse named Susan, the Head ICU nurse who whispered “No. I think he’s in there”. She was right.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
Jeff in ICU. A whole new reality sets in.
I asked him how he was able to be so optimistic when many people fall into deep depressions or even commit suicide after severe facial injuries and disfigurement. Where was he getting this cheerful and optimistic attitude from? He reflected for a moment, then told me three things: He said he feels he was born a natural optimist. He’d had that kind of personality before the accident. He told me he had the love of the most amazing wife and three kids. He said his unwavering family support was a big reason. He also said that he always knew he’d live and he’d walk again. He thought “If I get through this, I’m gonna make it out of here on my own two feet.”
He had to keep moving forward. He admits to times of feeling depressed. He’s endured over 22 surgeries and the last few were botched so badly that he was left with more severe disfigurement than a few years prior. He was open enough to show me photos of his different surgeries. While many people would be private about sharing personal photos of this nature, he shared them.
Another failed attempt at reconstructive surgery. Metal plate protruding through Jeff’s chin.
He’s made the choice to not become addicted to the pain medication that he badly needs. He explained that he never liked the way they made him feel foggy and disconnected from life. He didn’t want to use them as a crutch. Aside from the obvious facial disfigurement, he has lingering pain from his crushed left leg, his left shoulder and ongoing back pain. “Only once in a blue moon do I take something for it. I use a magnetic bracelet and I feel it really helps with the pain” he said proudly. I nodded, realizing that even a bad paper cut could make me miserable. This man was amazing.
“If you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can move mountains. That faith has to be not only in God, but of the people around you and in yourself. If you can’t have faith in the people around you, then find new people! ”
Jeff and his family at Christmas, in their home.
Jeff leaned forward and looked at me. “Kim, the only way I can justify what happened to me is that there has to be a reason- to help other people, to help the environment, to help the economy with my Green business and with the foundation I’m working on. I also want to make sure my family is taken care of. It’s important”
In a cruel twist of irony, a few years ago, doctors had him looking better than he currently does right now. I found this odd. The man I saw before me still needed a jaw, teeth and a mouth. I commented that he’d gone backward. He nodded and explained that it was part of the process of the surgeries and some had not gone as well as doctors had hoped. He has plans for more corrective surgeries in the future. Despite this, he said he had to focus on getting better and the eventual outcome, instead of feeling sorry for himself in this space of right here and right now- a space so many of us fall into with far less important matters to worry about.
Jeff water skiing one year after the accident, after being told he’d never walk again.
He told me the future plan was to create a jaw out of a bone in his hip, make lips out of tissue and put teeth in. I asked him if he felt uncomfortable when he went in public. He laughed and told me that 90% of the places he goes, people are wonderful to him. He said he loves to go out and makes friends wherever he goes. That made me smile. I could easily see why. He has a magnetic personality that shines through. I quickly forgot about his physical appearance and found him funny and entertaining. He introduced me to his dogs and showed me around their gorgeous home. His family has adapted to their situation and become closer as a result.
“How has my accident changed me? Coming so close to death? I lost fear. I lost the fear of loving. I lost the fear of death. I take chances now and I want to help people. What can stop me now? What do I have to lose?” ~Jeff Main
One of life’s pleasures is eating. I had to ask. Weren’t you wondering? I was. He confirmed that yes, he loves to eat. Remarkably, he still has working taste buds. He said the difference now is that he’s a little messy and takes longer to finish, but still very much enjoys food. A wonderful difference from the feeding tube he used to endure in the ICU.
What struck me about Jeff was that he is resilient. He is a survivor, not a victim. It would be so easy to fall into the “victim” role, but he refuses. He does not want people to feel sorry for him. I asked if people stared at him in public. He shrugged and said it didn’t bother him. Little children have a natural curiosity. Adults should know better than to stare or be rude. He laughed and said “If people stare, I tell them to take a picture, it lasts longer.” He recently enjoyed a day with his children at a shooting range, loves to water ski, goes camping and bike riding. He enjoys life to the fullest. He was water skiing within a year of the crash, when doctors didn’t think he’d live, let alone walk again. A testament to the resiliency and determination of the human spirit.
Jeff frequently plays sports with his kids.
According to the Resiliency Center, psychologists have research evidence showing that problem-focused coping increases resiliency while emotion-focused coping impairs resiliency. This means that when faced with a setback, unexpected difficulty, or challenge, it is smart to focus outward on the challenges that must be handled. People who become emotional and make their feelings the focus of attention do not cope well with life’s challenges.
“No person with a severe injury ‘is’ his or her condition. Each person is an individual who has a difficult physical condition to cope with. The perspective of “still me” is true for every physically challenged person. Just look in their eyes” ~Resiliency Center
Jeff shared with me photos of himself before the accident. He paused and looked at one of his photos before his injuries “I used to be good looking” he laughed, “now I’m hot!” If that doesn’t tell you about the great sense of humor this man has, I don’t know what does. He also opens his large home to any friends who might be in need. “They stay with us if they need to” he said “my home is always open”.
Jeff & Mellissa pre accident.
While you may think this story is about a traumatic car accident, that’s only half of it. Jeff Main defies the odds in more ways than one. He not only cheated death, but he’s gone on determined to make a difference in the world. Two important ways he is keeping his promise to do amazing things with his life are his Green4Free business and the Foundation for Severe Facial Trauma patients that he hopes to start.
Being an advocate of the Green Movement, I was eager to hear about Jeff’s Green 4 Free company and what it was about. He’s passionate about giving back to the environment and sustainability. His products have been featured on the Channel 8 News in Tampa, and people are taking notice.
His company provides people with affordable ways to go green by diverting electric savings. While he has several amazing products, the one I found most fascinating was the ZeroEnergy Water Heating System. Simply put, the ZeroEnergy System transfers normally wasted heat energy from your AC to your water heater, and heats up the water for free. This is a new way to use otherwise wasted energy from your AC to heat your water. The heat that’s wasted into the air is now being used to heat your water. Aside from the obvious environmentally friendly benefits, it’s always nice to see some extra money at the end of the month with lower energy bills.
Jeff explained “I want to create opportunities for people. I have a vision and a dream. The goal is there. Everything you see needs to be seen as an opportunity, not an obstacle. There’s big, scary obstacles when you take your eyes off the goal.” He went on to say that we must choose to not take part in this recession or the struggle. We can choose to make the economy what we want it to be. He told me that he created his business plan while in the hospital, between surgeries. You have a lot of time to think.
Visit Jeff’s website where you can become more educated on these innovative, Green products and watch their news coverage video. I strongly encourage you to consider going green and supporting Jeff’s business.
His website: www.Green4Free.Biz
I asked him what his hopes for the future were. He paused and told me that his story is not finished. He’d like to write a book on his experiences. He also wants to start a foundation for people with severe facial trauma. He’s been talking to one of his facial surgeons about it, Dr. Boland at Bayfront Medical Center. They want to offer support and counseling to facial trauma patients. He told me many of these patients find their injuries too much to cope with for the rest of their lives and go on to commit suicide. It should not be that way. Imagine not being able to see. Not being able to eat. Never looking the same again. Jeff wants to get them help in finding great physicians, counseling, financial relief, and transportation to and from their many doctor appointments and surgeries. He told me of the thousands of miles he’s had to travel to get to the many surgeries he’s endured since the accident. He knows how it feels.
He wants to make a difference so others have an easier time with life changing experiences like this. He counts himself and very lucky and very blessed. “Life is good” he said.
Jeff Main can be reached at: 727-488-8833
For inquiries on written articles regarding Jeff Main, Kim Cass can be reached at: LuxMagazine@yahoo.com