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Teen will not recover from fall; organs to be donated


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 19, 2000

KENNETH CITY -- Jared Raible, the ninth-grader who fell 25 feet while working on a treehouse, will not recover from his brain injury, his family said Thursday.

Jared, 15, will undergo surgery within 30 hours to donate his heart, liver and other vital organs, said his grandmother, Shirley Dobbs.

"It is no longer a recovery situation," said Mrs. Dobbs, 62. "It is a transplant situation."

Coincident with surgery, the 112-pound Jared will be removed from life support and pronounced dead.

He has been breathing with a respirator in Bayfront Medical Center's neurointensive care unit since Saturday's accident at Westchester Boulevard and Innis Court.

Jared and his best friend, Chris Levi, were pounding nails in the treehouse when Jared lost his balance and fell from a makeshift seat onto a section of stockade fencing, according to Pinellas County sheriff's deputies.

One of the fence's stakes punctured the right side of Jared's neck and pushed toward his skull, according to Lealman and Seminole rescue workers.

Jared's grandmother, one of the first people on scene, talked publicly for the first time Thursday about the accident. She said a branch from the oak tree -- not the fence -- caused Jared's injury.

"Everybody thinks they know this story but they don't," she said.

Paramedics did not find an object in Jared's neck.

"He had a hole on the back of his neck about as round as a man's index finger and extended about one inch deep," the grandmother said.

Jared, a Lakewood High School student, spent the night before the accident -- Feb. 11 -- with his grandparents, Shirley and Robert Dobbs, in Westchester Estates in the Lealman community.

Jared helped his grandmother unload the dishwasher and scrub the kitchen floor on Saturday morning. He played basketball with his friends in the neighborhood and bought end tables for the treehouse at a church garage sale.

"The treehouse had been a big project for about six months for the kids," Mrs. Dobbs said. "We knew about it, but we did not know how large it was or the extent of it."

The treehouse stood near their neighborhood in densely forested land owned by Pinellas County. The tract, which is along Joe's Creek, is set aside as a nature preserve.

Three stories tall, the treehouse had carpeting, window blinds, a screen door and padlocks to keep out intruders. County workers spent part of Tuesday taking down the treehouse.

Before Jared left for the treehouse late Saturday afternoon, he was reminded to be home by 6 p.m. for dinner.

At 5:20 p.m., his younger brother, Jason, ran home with the news: Jared had fallen and was badly hurt.

His family has felt helpless. There wasn't much doctors could do. They couldn't operate. He was on life support and getting all the medication necessary. But Jared had suffered an irreversible brain injury.

"There just was nothing we could do from the time it happened until now," his grandmother said.

Jared has been active in a youth group at Northside Baptist Church, playing baseball and football. He is an avid Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan and has a Hardy Nickerson shirt to prove it.

Like many teenagers, he begged to practice driving before he got his learning permit.

"He was very, very intelligent," his grandmother said. "You could sit and talk to him as an adult because he conversed that way. If you wanted to talk politics, he would talk politics. If you wanted to talk religion, he would talk religion."

Jared's mother, Rebekah Raible, who lives in Coquina Key in St. Petersburg, has not left the hospital since Jared was admitted. She has been too upset to talk about the incident.

"She has not been away from his side for five minutes," Jared's grandmother said.

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