It was an accident that nearly claimed the life of a local hero: a military veteran turned first responder. Jude Lewis awoke from a six-month coma to live a very different life, one that, as difficult as it is, is unquestionably brighter because of the man by his side.
“You feel better when you exercise your leg, don't you, huh?” John Hicks, a nursing assistant, tells Lewis. “Alright, raise that head up son, hold your head up.”
There are some bonds so strong, no matter how much stress it's under, it remains unbreakable.
“Jude, you understand what I'm telling you, son?” Hicks asks his patient. “You understand what I'm telling you?”
This is that kind of bond, a story that transcends words, and is better told through one act of kindness.
Whether Jude Lewis is being changed or fed or put to bed, his every need is anticipated by the man who walks and often sleeps by his side.
“You're about to go to sleep now, son, huh? Get you some rest,” Hicks tells Lewis.
You are looking at the face of a hero in the hands of a hero. Lewis didn't always need help. He was who you called when you needed it, a New Orleans police officer.
In 2001, when a fellow officer chasing a murder suspect radioed for back up, he raced to her rescue only to have others race to his when he lost control and crashed into a tree.
With severe head trauma, Lewis spent two years in the hospital, where his family never left his side. On Mother's Day in 2002 Eyewitness News featured his mom in a story, but now as Father's Day approaches, it was time to share his story again.
After all, he has been right behind Jude, too, pushing him forward. Only Hicks isn't Jude's father, he is his nurse and has been pushing Jude to persevere since the day he came home. This was back then before his long hair sprouted a few gray ones.
“It's a good feeling when you're helping someone,” Hicks said, “especially someone who can't help himself.”
Hicks took an immediate liking to Jude and his mom and the affection was mutual. So much so, that when Jude's mom became terminally ill in 2005, she left her son in the care of his loving aunt but also made an extraordinary last request of John.
“I promised his mom that I would take care of him, and I've been here ever since,” Hicks said.
Together John and Jude have weathered it all over the years, including the worst storm, Hurricane Katrina.
As disaster approached and an entire city, including John's family, fled town. John stayed behind to ride it out with Jude.
“I said, ‘Jude, I don't know where we're going, but I've believe this in God's hands,’” Hicks recalled. “I said, ‘We're gonna be alright.’”
And so began their odyssey. It started at a local hospital, but after the levees broke and power and hope was lost, the sick got sicker. That's when John put Jude in his truck and headed west.
The two bounced from one Texas city to another, dodging even more storms until weeks later they finally returned home -- only to find Jude's under water. Not discouraged, John just kept driving that extra mile to his house.
“I took him in to my apartment and kept him two years until his house was ready,” Hicks said.
Last month, John and Jude marked 11 years together. It has been a long road. Last year John got sick and nearly died. For six months, doctors fought to save his life and when he was finally discharged, with a trache still in his throat, he went to Jude's house before his own. Neither could speak back then, but they didn’t have to.
“He understands everything that's being said right here,” Hicks said. “He might not be responding that well, but he understands.”
They say it takes a special person to be a nurse and a special calling to be a cop. Service and sacrifice, both have lived it and share the rewards -- unspoken thank-yous and an unbreakable bond.
John calls Jude the son he never had, and somewhere Jude's mother must be smiling, knowing her last wish was granted and both she and her son can rest in peace.