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May 5, 2023

Walking Miracle: SVSU student’s grit takes him from harrowing accident to promising future

Kokowica, Jake

Jake Kokowicz
Master of Social Work

Jake Kokowicz has no memory of the night that changed his life. His story of extraordinary perseverance as a “walking miracle” is impossible to forget.

In 2014, Jake was a U.S. Marine stationed at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia, where he was attached to a special duty assignment protecting classified materials. In the early morning hours of Sept. 2, while off duty, Jake lost control of his motorcycle and suffered extensive injuries.  

“I suffered 15 broken bones, spent 19 days in a coma, suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, a severe diffuse axonal injury, flatlined three times, had six blood transfusions, and woke up from a coma at a third-grade level,” Jake said.

“My parents were originally told that I would never wake up and if I did wake up, I would most likely never be able to take care of myself independently.”

Jake spent over a year in the hospital where the focus was to treat his brain injury. That was followed by three years of outpatient occupational physical therapy at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to save his left hand. Despite those efforts, Jake never regained function of his hand, so he elected to have it amputated.

It was at Walter Reed where Jake realized he could help others.

“I had the opportunity to counsel Marines and other service members,” Jake said. “I felt like my positive inspiration could help them at the same time I was also learning to keep moving forward. I learned that my story could help other people.”

Jake Kokowicz has overcome tremendous odds. Showing his remarkable grit forged through his childhood in Vassar and tempered in the Marine Corps, Jake not only is living independently, he is graduating from Saginaw Valley State University with a Master of Social Work and a list of accomplishments anyone would be proud of.

Jake plans to use his experience, coupled with the knowledge and skills he has gained at SVSU, to help other veterans.

“While recovering from this traumatic incident, I always had a ‘prove everyone wrong’ attitude and was not going to let having a prosthetic arm stop me from being the best person I could be,” Jake said.

“I immediately took pride in being a role model for other veterans with disabilities and this is where my interest in becoming a social worker was born. I want veterans — or anyone — with a disability to see that just because you have a disability does not mean you’re disabled.

“I enjoy helping people get to where they want to be, and I hope my story helps inspire them to reach a little further or dig a little deeper. Doctors have told me I am a walking miracle and I am not sure why I got all the luck, but I believe I am here to inspire people and help them see good things can come from bad situations.”