Colleen Aylward now thinks she understands what a psychic meant almost three decades ago when she said, “You will have a son later in life. Just love him.”
“I can still see her facial expression. Her tone of voice was serious. I was always kind of freaked out about that,” says Aylward. “I kept asking her, what’s going to happen? She’d only repeat, ‘just love him.'”
What happened to her 24-year-old son James, whom his friends know as J.D., is the subject of a Bellevue Police criminal investigation. His lifeless body was found in a pool of blood on a Bellevue street, in the 1200 block of 140th Avenue Northeast.
He’s been in the intensive-care unit at Harborview suffering from severe head injuries after being beaten sometime between 2 and 4 a.m. Sunday, September 23rd.
Dozens of friends and family have been camped out in the hospital for a week, and just received news that he’s been cleared to leave intensive care as soon as a bed opens up on another floor in Harborview’s Neuroscience wing.
J.D. has been responding to those around him by giving a thumb up or thumb down. The Sunday Seahawks loss got a thumb down.
Football, in a way, is helping J.D. recover from the severe attack.
He was a star athlete at Sammamish High School who went on to play football at Boise State. Most recently, he was working full time at the Pro Sports Club in Bellevue. Doctors say his fitness level and age are going in his favor, when so much is against him.
“He had a bolt coming out of his head which measured the inner-cranial pressure in his brain. He had half of his skull taken off in the upper right part, where he had a severe hematoma. He had a very bad black eye on his left eye. He had a drain coming out of the back of his head. He was intubated so he could breathe. He had tubes everywhere,” says Katy Jo Meyer, J.D.’s cousin who has been documenting his trauma and recovery.
J.D. has received a blood transfer, he’s had seizures, and he’s slipped in and out of consciousness. He’s made what the family considers to be “great strides” over the weekend. He is talking in spurts, responding well on both sides of his body, and recognizing people by name.
“His body has been through a tremendous amount,” says Meyer, who speaks about the damage to J.D.’s body so his mom doesn’t have to.
Colleen says she’s gone from crying her eyes out to pulling her hair out. She’s devastated to see her son in such pain and she’s angry that the person, or people, who pummeled J.D. haven’t been caught yet.
Bellevue detectives say a female motorist came across Aylward’s son on 140th, in a section of Bellevue between Crossroads and Overlake. Aylward had his cellphone, his credit card, his watch and his passport on him when he was found. Police are using the cellphone to retrace his steps. They’re not commenting on any progress they’ve made in the investigation.
Meyer is encouraged by the physical progress her cousin is making. “His humor and charming personality are definitely still there,” she says. “In fact, he’s using it to sweet talk people around him to help break out of here.”
Any mother marks the milestones of her baby’s life – the first word, the first step. Colleen Aylward is marking other milestones in her only child’s life now – recognizing those around him, moving out of ICU, talking again, walking again, and soon, she hopes, coming home.
By LINDA THOMAS
Photo of Colleen and J.D. Aylward courtesy the family