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Hatchett family gets trip to country music awards

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By Geoff Hamill

It’s been just five months since the lives of Justin Hatchett and his family took a dramatic turn. Following a farming accident on June 18, the Washington County teen has been on a long road to recovery. The prayers from friends, family, and even strangers have no doubt played a huge part in his recovery.

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“I truly believe with all my heart that one of the reasons he’s still here is we had all of Springfield praying for him,” Jeannie Hatchett, Justin’s mother said. “At the accident scene, all kinds of people had come out there, people who didn’t even work on the ambulance, and they were asking what they could do. I told them to just pray. There were people all over that field on their knees praying. There was a prayer circle over next to the ambulance. As a parent, it was so comforting to see these people praying for my child. I told Justin later that was an awesome sight. You could just feel the hand of God right there.”

Justin was treated at the University of Kentucky’s Chandler Medical Center in Lexington, and he said it was two months to the day after his accident that he got to come home. Since that time, he has had numerous visitors. One of those visitors was so inspired, she even wrote a song about Justin’s accident. Deanna Tomlinson, a singer-songwriter and musician who has lived in Springfield most of her life, visited Justin a while back and spent time talking with him about his accident.

In addition to the song about Justin, Deanna has been busy writing other songs and performing in Nashville, Tenn. She has been writing country as well as Christian songs, and her experiences in Nashville have brought her in contact with some high-ranking music industry representatives. Those connections played a big role in Deanna being able to do a good deed for Justin and his family last week.

Cara Tomlinson, Deanna’s mother, called Jeannie Hatchett a few weeks ago and told her that Deanna was working on a surprise for Justin. At first, Jeannie had no idea what was in store, but a call the next day from Cara revealed that the surprise was four tickets to the annual Country Music Association awards show in Nashville on Nov. 12.

Jeannie said she was amazed when she found out about the tickets to the high-profile event. Justin, who is a fan of country music, and especially a fan of Brad Paisley, one of this year’s CMA awards hosts, couldn’t believe the news.

“I’ve watched it on TV and thought it would be cool to go, but I never thought I’d be able to go because of the price of the tickets, and I figured you’d have to get them two years in advance or something,” Justin said.

It wasn’t easy, but Tomlinson was able to get the tickets, and Justin, along with his dad Marty, his mom Jeannie and his sister Jessica, was headed to Nashville. As the family planned the trip, yet another call came from Cara Tomlinson, and this time, it was a surprise for Jessica, Justin’s 22-year-old sister.

“Cara called back and asked if Jessica would want to be a seat hopper,” Jeannie said.

The role of a seat hopper is to simply hop from seat to seat when the stars get up to perform or receive an award. Jessica was excited, and she even bought an outfit for the occasion, only to find out she couldn’t wear anything that might take attention away from the stars on TV. So instead of her new outfit, she ended up wearing a black top and black pants.

“It was not attractive,” Jessica said with a laugh.

With Jessica now serving in an official capacity, that left another ticket to the big night open, and Jeannie decided to give it to her sister, Jackie Maupin.

With the show taking place Wednesday night, the group headed to Nashville that afternoon. When they arrived, they found security to be at a maximum near the Sommet Center. With rain falling, and the only parking spaces being a few blocks away, Marty pulled up and dropped the family off in front of the building. They headed in, and the big night was off and running.

As a concerned mother, Jeannie was naturally worried about Justin’s stamina. After all, he was just getting a lot of his strength back, and the long night could take a toll on him.

“I was afraid he wouldn’t be able to hold up that long,” she said of the night, including the three-hour show.

From start to finish, the family had a great evening. Justin enjoyed all of the musicians and getting to see them live and in person.

“There wasn’t a single performance that I got bored with. It was all really fun and exciting,” he said.

“We were on the edge of our seats the whole time,” Jeannie added. She said she even had to remind Justin who was supposed to be performing during the show as he sang along with many of the entertainers throughout the show.

“Justin was singing along quite a bit, and I had to tell him, ‘Justin, I think the people are here to hear them!’”

Justin saw things differently, and teased back at his mom.

“That wasn’t exactly how it was going. That was more like her,” he said.

Jeannie confessed to getting into the music, and she said she was surprised to find herself caught up in the music of Kid Rock.

“I was never really a big fan of his because he’s kind of hard core, but his music was contagious, and you just couldn’t’ stay in your seat, could you?” she said to Justin.

“Well, she had a problem with that,” he laughed.

Seeing the show live was different than watching on TV, especially during commercial breaks. Justin said his friends back in Washington County were staying in touch via text messages.

“We were sitting there and all of my friends were texting me and saying, ‘What’s going on now?’”

Jeannie said she enjoyed watching the stars get up and mingle with each other during the breaks. She said an announcer would alert them that there were 30 seconds until the show went back on the air, but the celebrities just kept talking.

“Finally, when the guy would say two seconds to air, they would all just sit down all of a sudden. That was fun to see, and we all enjoyed it,” she said.

After the show, the family spent the night at a Nashville hotel, then the next day, got to meet a lady who worked at the awards show and kept things moving backstage through the night. Jeannie said this just kept the excitement going for them.

Looking back on the big night in Nashville, Justin had a simple answer when asked about his favorite part.

“All of it!”

Justin’s recovery

Despite the fun and excitement of the CMA awards, Justin continues to work hard and face challenges as he recovers from the injuries from his accident. He has a lot of support at home from his mom, dad, and sister, as well as some expert medical care. His mom is a nurse, as are two of his aunts. His sister is also following in their footsteps, and will graduate from nursing school later this year. She has been a key part of his recovery.

“Jessica had been living in Lexington, and she moved back home in May. Justin’s accident was in June, so it just worked out that she was here to take care of him the rest of the summer after he came home. She has taken great care of him.”

Justin is excited about his progress, but even he admits he might be rushing things a bit at times.

“It’s going good,” he said of his recovery. “I’m up and moving around more. I think I’m moving more than what I should be because I can feel it, but it’s going real good. Every time I go back to the doctors, they’re all saying, ‘I never thought you would be here like this.’ Even my physical therapists say it’s amazing that I’m walking.”

Justin got to come home in August, but doctors had hoped to have him spend some time at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital in Lexington, but due to some of his medical issues, the hospital couldn’t work with him. He continues to have an open wound in his belly, and he has a pick line, which was used to administer nutrients when he was unable to eat normally.

“I was ready to come home,” Justin said. His mom said he would come home, and she told doctors that he would work hard to get back on his feet.

“I told them that I guaranteed he would get better because we would work him hard,” she said.

With his health returning, it’s still a big adjustment for Justin, who was so active before the accident. He played basketball while a student at Washington County High School. Since then, he had worked on the farm, which he had done most of his life.

“I went from waking up every morning a little after daylight and going to work, not coming in until dark. Now I wake up whenever I want and just lay there. I’m bored,” he said.

Jeannie said the doctors have instructed her to let him rest because he needs his energy, and any calories he doesn’t burn will only help in his recovery.

In addition to the prayers and the medical professionals, who Jeannie said were excellent in working with Justin and dealing with the family, the blood drives held in Justin’s honor also went a long way to help him, as well as others who may need blood in the future. More than 200 units of blood were collected in two local blood drives. Justin used a total of 67 units of blood, including plasma, during his recovery.

“We’ve been so blessed with the blood drives. The hospital said the extra blood will help make sure another family doesn’t come in and have to hear that they are out of blood,” Jeannie said. “The blood banks do run out of blood at times, so it was a blessing to us to think that some other family would be able to benefit from those blood drives for Justin.”

Doctors continue to be amazed at Justin’s recovery, and he has at least one more surgery ahead of him. Jeannie said that is planned for January, but doctors have said it could be as late as April. Still, Justin is making plans for his future and life as he had planned it before the accident.

“I’m going to move to Louisville and go to JCC. I’ll get a business management degree, then come back here and farm. I’ll probably finish out with an agriculture business degree in case I ever want to get a job with Farm Credit or something,” he said.

When he’s ready to go to college, there’s a room waiting for him. Three of Justin’s friends, David Yaste, Brent McIlvoy and Cody Harris, were going to be his roommates at college this summer, and the four of them were going to share a house. Jeannie said the three have refused to rent out Justin’s room while he recovers, and continue to look forward to his arrival.

“We told them since he couldn’t be there this year to go ahead and rent out his room, and they said absolutely not,” Jeannie said. “When they moved in, we went down to visit. Justin was still in a wheelchair then, and they carried his wheelchair in. He’s looking forward to going to college, and it’s good to see him looking ahead and reaching for those goals.”

For updates on Justin, or to contact the family, visit Justin’s site on the Internet at www.prayforjustin.blogspot.com.