GARDNER -- Four years ago, Overlook Middle School student Jacob Nano woke up from a coma and began a three-month recovery from an illness that nearly killed him.
The 14-year-old was staying in a small hospital room and felt frustrated and restrained by the tubes he was hooked up to. He said aloud that he wanted to give up, but came to a realization.
“There was nowhere else to go but up,” said Jacob, who is now 18 and a senior at Monty Tech.
Just before Thanksgiving in 2014, Jacob had trouble breathing and was rushed to the hospital.
Necrotizing pneumonia reduced his ability to breathe and later caused his lungs to collapse. Doctors were stumped about why the illness happened and why it was so severe.
Before he was transported to Boston Children’s Hospital, his father, Keith, prepared his eulogy.
The community rallied together to support the family and were known as “Jacob’s Army.”
Jacob’s brother, Nick, and Overlook students helped organize a dodgeball tournament to support him. Prayers came in from churches around the country. People brought meals over for the family.
Four days before Christmas, a man from Texas contacted Keith and said he prayed for Jacob and that he was healed.
“We were talking about burying him and four days later he was out of a coma,” Keith said.
Doctors called Jacob’s recovery a miracle.
After waking up from the coma, his ambition, stubbornness, and fighting spirit made Jacob determined to get better.
He had to learn to eat, talk, and walk again.
When doctors wanted to start him on physical therapy for once a week, Jacob said to schedule it for three days.
“As anyone knows, the name Nano is affiliated with strength,” he said.
Jacob completed school work while in the hospital so that he wouldn’t have to repeat the eighth grade. He graduated with the Presidential Award for Academic Excellence.
In total, Jacob was in a coma for about three weeks and in the hospital for 101 days.
He was released on March 21, 2015 and the family had Christmas for him when they were back together.
When Jacob went returned to school, he didn’t want all of the attention or to talk about what happened, said Alethea Nano, his mother. He wanted to go back to the way things used to be.
As an eighth-grader, Jacob played football as a linebacker on the Oakmont Regional High School freshman team. He also liked to skate and play hockey. After his illness, he had to give up contact sports.
Jacob was determined to continue with baseball. When he returned to Overlook, he told his coach that he would play that season. The coach gave him a team jersey but didn’t expect him to play, Nano said.
During a game in May, he got his chance to return to the baseball diamond.
“I felt like I was the only one on the field. I felt like the MLB was calling my name,” Jacob recalled. “I felt so strong.”
He says the experience in the hospital and recovery made him more appreciative and motivated him to pursue his dream of playing baseball after graduation.
Jacob plans to attend Massassoit Community College in Brockton and get his license to install heating, ventilation and air conditioning, which he is learning at Monty Tech.
Years after nearly losing Jacob, the family still finds it difficult to talk about the experience.
Jacob’s father thought what happened was life-changing. He wanted to share the experience and lessons learned with others.
Last year Keith learned about a writing contest about miracles and submitted a short story about Jacob’s illness and recovery. On the anniversary of his son’s hospital admission, Keith found out the story would be published in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Book of Miracles.”
His wife suggested he expand the story into a book. It seemed that it would take years to finish or be impossible to get it published, Keith said, but he wrote it in three months and later got a book deal.
The book “The Gift of Tears: A Terrifying Illness, A Miraculous Healing, An Extraordinary Journey” will be out Dec. 1. It is Keith’s first published book.
“It is a thank you to Jacob’s Army and a way to say thank you for standing with us,” Alethea said.
Jacob has read his father’s book and said it was interesting to look back on the experience through another perspective.
Like his father, Jacob says he has always been good at writing. He has written stories, music, and won a school-wide writing contest at Monty Tech.
One day he would like to write about his experience being sick and recovering. He said it could be a sequel to his father’s book.
“It’s definitely something that’s in my future,” he said.
Follow Mina on Twitter @mlcorpuz