Overcoming difficulties

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By John Barnhart

Rachel Farren Short and Mike Short want to set the record straight.

Rachel Short is Travis Campbell Farren’s mother and Mike Short is his step-father. The couple said that jumping from an Appalachian Trail foot bridge had nothing to do with Farren’s drowning in the James River last month.

Travis Farren was not one to complain about his problems. One problem he didn’t complain about was that he suffered from epilepsy. Friends knew it, but it wasn’t something he talked about.

He wasn’t one to let it get in the way of his life, either. Although he took his medication as prescribed, he also did activities that his doctors told him he shouldn’t do, such as play video games on his computer. The Shorts said that the flashing light and rapid movement of the games could trigger a seizure. But, Travis Farren loved playing video games and played them regularly.

It’s not that he was reckless. If he felt bad, he would have somebody else drive his car rather than risk having a seizure behind the wheel. Travis’ mother said that her son, who suffered grand mal seizures, could sometimes have a feeling that gave warning that one was going to occur.

Rachel Short said that the day he and his close friend, Michael Mosley, headed for the James in his car, he asked Mosley to drive because he didn’t feel well.

The two young men made more than one jump, going feet first into the water. On the last jump, both of them came up and made eye contact before swimming for shore. Rachel Short said that a fisherman saw Travis go under, but Mosley didn’t see it. He swam back out, dove to find his friend and failing to do so, called 911. She said nearly 60 rescue workers, from both Bedford County and Rockbridge County, were there and it was divers from the Smith Mountain Lake area that found his body.

Rachel Short said that the captain of the Huddleston Rescue Squad came to Travis’ funeral and described finding him. She said that she was told that they found her son in 30 feet of water lying on the sandy bottom looking as if he were asleep. He had no injuries.

“It had nothing to do with the bridge at all,” Rachel said. “He had a seizure.”

She said that she has been told that a combination of factors , including an adrenaline rush, can cause and epileptic’s brain to just overload and a seizure to break through.

“It was nobody’s fault,” said Rachel Short. “Our Father knows His sheep and when He calls, they come.”

“He jumped in the James and surfaced in the Jordan,” she added.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s Web site, a person suffering a grand mal seizure loses consciousness, then the convulsions begin. Rebecca Short said that her son never knew during the course of a seizure that he was having one. When he would regain consciousness, he would realize by the way he felt that one had occurred.

“It was a quiet, gentle, peaceful passing,” she said.

Travis Farren was a student at Virginia Western Community College. He had struggled after high school graduation, but had worked through those over the past year. Medication for attention deficit disorder had sharpened his focus. He had also taken to keeping a day planner and writing to do lists, as well as leaving notes for himself on places he would be sure to see them to remind him of what he needed to do. The new focus had allowed him to pull down good grades this past year.

His goal was to go on to a four-year college and get a degree in journalism. His ultimate goal was to become an author and he felt that writing for newspapers would provide a good, complementary job, while he worked at writing and getting his work published. He was just getting his life together.

“He had his goals and a plan to reach them,” Mike Short said.

Travis’ mother said that he was an avid reader and had, in fact, started early. When he was a toddler, he would watch WDBJ 7’s newscast and equated the spoken word “news” with the written word. One day, he came in with a copy of Good News for Modern Man, pointed at the word “News” in the title, and said “news?”

In addition to reading and writing, he wrote short stories and poetry, he liked music and both played and wrote music together with a couple of friends. Rachel said that they would get together and play in the Shorts’ garage. He was also a computer enthusiast and networked three computers into a local area network in the Shorts’ house.

After his death, Rachel Short got his cell phone and went through the phone numbers, calling friends to tell what had happened. One fellow from Baltimore, Aaron Clark, immediately got in his car and drove down. Another, a young lady from Georgia, also drove up.

A number of his friends showed up for the funeral and 17 of them spoke about how he had touched their lives. They wrote final messages to him on his casket with a Sharpie. Rachel Short also gave each a personal possession of his to remember him by.

What about the footbridge?

Mike Short said that youth should still be able to jump off that bridge. They do it frequently and Short noted that jumping from that bridge is not why his step-son died.

“I don’t want them to close that down because of Travis,” Short said. “He wouldn’t appreciate that at all.

To emphasize that, Short headed for the bridge, Friday, to take a plunge into the James himself.