Giving all that's left: Mexia family shows perseverance after tragedy

Posted at 9:34 PM, Nov 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-03 11:32:11-04

Friday night, the high school football season comes to an end for the Mexia Blackcats. For linebacker Jo'Rel Lockhart, it was a season that he didn't think would ever happen.

"I didn't think I would be able to do anything again," Jo'Rel said. 

Jo'Rel grew up in Mexia with is mother, Cammecia Strain, and 3 siblings. He spent a lot time during his childhood with his youngest brother, T'aveon Johnson.

"He wanted to do everything Jo'Rel done," Strain said. "He had a good relationship until you know when Jo'Rel started growing up more and didn't want to carry him around but he still tried."

"He was a happy kid. He made everybody smile," Jo'Rel said.

Jo'Rel and T'aveon spent many days playing sports and video games, but all that changed on a wet Sunday afternoon in August 2012. Jo'Rel, Taveon and four others drove to Corsicana for last minute back to school shopping. On the way back, the truck hydroplaned off Highway 14 just south of Richland, TX. According to police, the car hit a fence and a tree before flipping over and ejecting four people out of the car.

"Would have never in my worst nightmare even would have thought that it would been what it was," Strain said.

Cammecia didn't know the severity of the crash until she arrived.

"So I was counting, trying to find everybody and I asked where is T'aveon and nobody would tell me," Strain said.

T'aveon died at the scene. He was 8 years old.

"Even talking about it now, I can feel my heart in my throat," Strain said. "We all still have that empty spot. We are all still missing that special piece in our life."

Jo'Rel however survived the accident, but before being taken away to be treated for his injuries, he had one message to his mother.

"Momma I am sorry. And then he said I tried to save him," Stain said. "He was talking about his brother and I said don't worry. Don't worry about it."

Jo'Rel suffered cuts behind his head and right hand, and severely tore his left arm at the elbow. Doctors were unsure if his arm could be saved, but took Jo'Rel into surgery immediately. After a six-hour procedure, doctors saved his arm, but Jo'Rel would be forced to stay in the hospital for six weeks.

"They didn't know if he was going to have any use of it afterwards," Jo'Rel said.

Before leaving to go home, Jo'Rel was fitted with two rods and a pillow case to cover his arm. He missed the first half of his 8th grade year before finally returning to school in January of 2013. On top of his class work, Jo'Rel underwent a year of therapy on his elbow and his shoulder and two years after the accident he had his wrist fused.

"I could barely do anything by myself. It's kind of like losing all your freedoms," Jo'Rel said. "I was angry I couldn't play football. Couldn't see my brother again."

"I had to push him a lot to keep doing what he had to do. I wouldn't let him handicap himself," Strain said.

Jo'Rel spent years re-learning how to do some of life's basic tasks.

"Probably writing and getting dressed on my own. At first that was probably the hardest things," Jo'Rel said. "Tying my shoe that was pretty tough too. Easy stuff that you wouldn’t think about being hard, it was...difficult."

"I never told him that you can't do this or you might need to watch it. I just let him be a kid," Strain said.

As the years went on, Jo'Rel wanted to get back on the field to play his favorite sport, football. But with concerns with the safety of his arm, Jo'Rel stood on the sidelines and helped the Mexia football team as a manager. Filling up water bottles, and assisting the team, Jo'Rel showed his mother he can play again.

"He was like 'I want to play football' and I was like 'Why? You can play basketball' and he was like 'no, I want to play football," Strain said.

After a visit to his doctor, Jo'Rel was cleared to play this season. He is fitted with a special brace to protect his arm from any contact. On the four-year anniversary of the accident that killed his brother and nearly took away his arm, Jo'Rel suited up for the Blackcats as they beat Athens 29-7, and all season long he has played in memory of his brother.

"Just go out there and play my heart something he would do," Jo'Rel said.

"I feel like he will be his biggest fan. His biggest fan. I'm quite sure he smiles down on him now," Strain said.

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