One of the signature in-concert moves by Icon for Hire guitar player Shawn Jump is flinging his guitar 360 or 720 degrees around his neck.
But each time he does it, his audience is largely unaware of the pieces Jump is missing, and how his life was threatened four years ago.
“Every once in a while I’ll catch myself thinking about how blessed I am to be able to do what I do,” the musician said, “to not have to work in a factory. Then I realize I’m blessed to be alive.”
Jump had been crippled by thoracic outlet syndrome, which in his case prevented blood from returning to his heart from his arm via veins. He also had three clots in his chest when diagnosed.
For the treatment, Jump had a vein taken from his leg and transplanted into his arm. To enable surgical success, Jump had muscles in his neck and his first rib removed from his body.
The ordeal started in Feb. 2009. At work, Jump realized one of his arms was considerably swollen, to three times its normal size.
“I was very concerned,” said Tim Jump, Shawn’s father, “You could just look at him and see one arm was Hulk Hogan and the other arm was Shawn.”
Blood was getting into the arm, but wasn’t making its way back. He left work, went to Decatur Memorial Hospital, and was promptly sent to St. Mary’s. He had three blood clots in his chest that needed to be tended to, and the arm needed even more attention.
“I figured I’d get an anti-inflammatory drug and that would be it,” Shawn said.
A clot in his arm was unclogged at St. Mary’s, but that was just for starters. For two weeks, leading up to the vein replacement surgery in St. Louis, he was as St. Mary’s every day to receive injections of blood thinner, one in each side.
Did anyone at that point tell him what was in store? “If they did,” Shawn said, “I didn’t remember. It was the next day my dad was telling me what was going to happen. I thought he was joking.”
“I think it was so overwhelming to him those first few days,” Tim said.
“The worst thing about that,” Shawn said, “was the emotional fear. I had two weeks to talk about it, to think about it, to pray about it.”
Shawn put on a brave face. He was concerned about letting down his bandmates, who had performance dates scheduled and who were just polishing their first batch of demos. He was outwardly calm, but not fooling his father.
“We have the kind of relationship where we almost know what the other is thinking,” Tim said.
“All I could think about,” Shawn said, “was how much I was letting everybody else in the band down. I’d always been an ‘I can do it’ kind of person. I had a job when I was 13. My family wasn’t poor, but if there was something I wanted, I made the money so I could buy it myself.
“This was just super humbling, to have some really embarrassing things happen around people and have to rely on them for help.
“Adam (Kronshagen, Icon for Hire’s drummer) still gives me grief about it. I don’t cry very often, but after I got the news, I was crying and he saw it. We were going to have to cancel shows. It was a huge disappointment.”
And that was all before the surgery.
He made trips to St. Louis prior to the surgery, learning a little more each time about what was to come.
“There was this 13-year-old gymnast who’d had it done,” Shawn said, “and I was there with her and she’d been told she was going to have to have it done on the other side. I was scared, but she was smiling. She said, ‘I’ve done it before, and I can do it again.’ She was smiling. That made it a lot easier for me.”
His bandmates — Kronshagen and Icon for Hire singer Ariel — spent time by his side, as did his family.
“He was in surgery for 10 hours,” Tim said. “One of the things we appreciated as a family was that the doctor was teleconferencing with us during the surgery to tell us how everything was going. He did that a couple of times.”
He spent a week in the hospital after the surgery as physicians monitored his status. He wasn’t alone. His bandmates were with him regularly, from staying in the room with him to taking him to spots in St. Louis including a wheelchair spin through the Children’s Museum and a visit to the Science Center to watch the dinosaur film.
“They still talk about that,” Shawn said. “They think that I just wanted to see it because of the medication I was on after the surgery. But I was really interested in it.”
By June, Shawn was back playing guitar. It didn’t feel like a short recuperation to him.
“It was a long time,” he said. “A long time. But I got pretty good movement back pretty quick. The physical therapy saved whatever was left.”
“He had a tough road to hoe with his rehab,” his father said. “But he’s good. He’s a good old country boy.”
There’s one part of the ordeal of which Shawn has kept ownership. He has possession of the rib that was removed. The doctor told him how to preserve it, and his grandmother did the work with nail polish and other items as instructed.
The entire experience is not a story Shawn has told often.
“I’ve kept it pretty quiet,” he said. “I told my family and friends. I didn’t want to go out with a sign or anything. We get so much attention, I think maybe I just kind of kept it to myself. I’m not going to put it on a billboard.
“Adam tells the story more than I would. We’d be out on the road, and he’d mention it to somebody. I’d say, ‘You tell it. You tell it better than I do.’ ”
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