Posted on February 19, 2024

Jack’s Journey: Calling on Superheroes of Integrated Care

At first glance, it might appear as though 4-year-old Jack Lohman is playing an imaginary game with his superhero figurines – but this little boy is on a mission. He’s channeling his inner Batman on the journey of a lifetime.

At 3 years old, Jack was diagnosed with hemimegaloencephaly, a rare condition that causes part of the brain to be abnormally larger than the rest. When he started to experience seizures, his parents, Meredith and Matt Lohman, considered the possibility of brain surgery.

Following consultations with surgeons and specialists, surgery was recommended. Jack was to undergo a left hemispherectomy – a complicated surgery in which the entire left hemisphere of his developing brain would be removed.

“Even with all the preparation and close observation from the day he was born, we were shocked and still had many questions,” said Matt. “Here’s our beautiful little boy having significant brain surgery – all before he turned 4.”

A Superhero at Heart

It became clear that at very young age, Jack’s extraordinary levels of compassion and perseverance would help power his own transformational journey.

As he developed an interest in superheroes, his parents had some research to do. Jack’s older twin sisters hadn’t developed a similar affinity, so this was brand new territory.

“We loved that Batman was completely human,” Meredith shared. “He didn’t possess any supernatural powers. Batman’s power came from his own determination and training, much like Jack.”

Our Powers Combined…

Following a successful, 24-hour hemispherectomy surgery at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Jack’s rehabilitation began straight away. The Lohman family transferred by ambulance from Detroit to the Mary Free Bed Kids Inpatient Pediatric program in Grand Rapids.

From the moment they arrived at Mary Free Bed, “We knew things were going to be OK,” said Meredith.

When Jack arrived, he was unable to speak or sit up in bed. His Mary Free Bed team of dedicated brain injury rehabilitation specialists worked together to coordinate his treatment across his different therapy needs.

The integrated teams, led pediatric physicians, included speech-language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists and registered nurses, all working in unison.

Improving Outcomes with Integrated Care

A strong recovery for Jack required dedicated care and a nurturing environment critical for his healing and development. Early challenges required tailored strategies while maintaining a joyful, kid-friendly environment.

Physical therapy played a crucial role in Jack’s therapy program. Mary Free Bed Kids therapists often implement play as part of therapy sessions, and his sessions were no exception. Playful yet functional exercises ensured Jack’s therapy was not only effective but also engaging.

“We really try to set up a situation where things he’s going to encounter in real life,” shared Janae Thaler, Mary Free Bed Kids physical therapist, emphasizing the practical aspect of their approach.

And while it’s not every day we get to save Gotham City, Jack’s routine regularly involved leading his superheroes through perils of the therapy gym. His therapists quickly learned that superhero storylines brought out Jack’s imagination and enthusiasm.

“What really got Jack going was playing with those superheroes in the ‘bat cave’ we built,” explained Mackenzie DeBoer, Mary Free Bed physical therapist, who often enacted the “supervillain” in therapy.

“For Jack, we were just playing. But for me, we were working on squatting, walking, stepping, balancing. At the same time, his parents were learning how they could play with Jack and facilitate therapy.”

Confidence for Caregivers

Jack spent three weeks in inpatient care. When he had gained enough strength, he graduated to the Mary Free Bed Kids outpatient program. The Lohmans spending three additional weeks diligently working on his speech and mobility.

The care and support extended beyond Jack to his entire family. Jack’s parents found themselves part of an empathetic community at Mary Free Bed. Their involvement and learning were deeply encouraged.

Meredith and Matt did everything they could to carry over what Jack was working on at the inpatient level and provide strong emotional support to amplify his therapy goals.

“I don’t think Jack will ever hit a limit of therapy,” explained Meredith. “There’s always room for improvement and mastering new skills, and we gained knowledge and confidence every time we went into therapy. The benefits of being connected with Mary Free Bed are endless.”

A Miracle to do Life With

Today, Jack is continuing to build his social, motor and academic skills in a mainstream young 5s program. He is continuing to learn new things every day with support from his physical, occupational and speech therapists. In the summer, he’ll return to Mary Free Bed for outpatient assessments.

“Jack is off the charts with vocabulary,” said his Mary Free Bed speech-language pathologist, Kate Armstrong. “It’s incredible because the left-hemisphere of the brain is traditionally attributed to language. But Jack’s progress continues to surprise us.“

Jack’s parents shared that social skill building has been one of Jack’s biggest accomplishments. He recently went ice skating with his class – using adaptive equipment, he was able to keep up with his peers.

“His positive can-do attitude doesn’t limit him,” they explained. “He sees himself on the same level as those around him. He truly is a joy and miracle to do life with!”

To Infinity and Beyond


Meredith and Matt shared that their little boy is constantly learning and teaching everyone around him. His extraordinary compassion for others shines through in everything he does.

“He’s conquering life and taking it at his own pace,” his parents shared. Some stages seem like a breeze for Jack, while others present more significant challenges.

“Yet, through it all, he is never boastful or discouraged. To us, he seems like a little superhero, and we often call him that. He’s driven from an inward drive to succeed, just like Batman.”

Jack continues to amaze everyone with his progress, from building vocabulary to embracing physical and social challenges. His can-do attitude and determination know no bounds.

“From not being able to sit up in bed when we arrived at Mary Free Bed, to running out of the hospital to go home after six weeks of therapy, we knew we made the right choice,” shared Meredith. “We couldn’t be more grateful to the team at Mary Free Bed for giving Jack back his independence.”

Bright Futures for More Kids

Mary Free Bed is honored to be part of Jack’s remarkable journey. The Lohmans remind us that life’s greatest achievements often involve one superhero looking out for another.

Patients like Jack allow us to come together and do what we do best – restore hope and freedom through rehabilitation.

“It’s human-centered therapy, not just patient-centered,” shared Kate Armstrong. “We’re working very hard to put together the patterns we see here and spread the knowledge to the rest of the inpatient pediatric world. We want the world to know what we’re doing, so we can help patients like Jack – not just here in Michigan, but across the nation.”

We extend our heartfelt appreciation to the Lohman family for Asking for Mary, sharing their story, and empowering more kids and families who are working towards their own bright futures.


Ask For Mary.

Mary Free Bed Kids offers comprehensive rehabilitation for infants, children and teens with complex and common conditions. Services include inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient therapy and Orthotics & Prosthetics + Bionics. Learn more about Mary Free Bed Kids.