When tragedy struck on April 13, 2022, Caiden Wilson doubted he would live, let alone play baseball ever again. Now, nearly a year later, the 16-year-old North Gwinnett High School sophomore just made the varsity baseball team.
Caiden’s undefeated Bulldogs were heading into their second matchup against Loganville High School last spring. He and his teammates were warming up before the game and having batting practice in the cages. While Caiden was loading the pitching machine, one of his teammates hit a line-drive. Unable to get behind the L-Screen for safety in time, Caiden took a direct hit to his right temple. He immediately lost consciousness and fell on his face.
Caiden’s mom, Becca Wilson, was working in the concession stand at the time of the accident. One of Caiden’s teammates ran over to get her. When she arrived at her son’s side, he was alert and bleeding profusely from his nose.
“I was out for a few minutes,” recalled Caiden. “I was confused about where I was and what happened. My mom was there, she told me everything, and I remember being concerned about whether I’d be able to play in the championship game that Saturday.”
After Caiden was assessed by EMTs, Becca was told she could drive her son to the emergency room, but she insisted he be taken by ambulance. This choice was monumental. Caiden was in and out of consciousness on the ride. At one point, Caiden told his mother he thought he might die.
“The traffic on 400 toward Children’s Healthcare at Scottish Rite was awful,” said Becca. “If I had driven him, he would’ve died in the back seat of my car. I can’t even think about it.”
Caiden had a CT scan that showed a concussion, temporal bone fracture, traumatic epidural hematoma, nasal bone fractures, uncial herniation, and subarachnoid hemorrhage. He began to decline rapidly, aspirated, and had to be intubated before being rushed into emergency surgery.
Neurosurgeon Dr. David Wrubel had seen baseball injuries before, but none this severe. Because of the urgency of the surgery, Caiden’s parents were unable to meet Wrubel before he operated on their son.
“Unfortunately, in this kind of surgery, there’s not much discussion. If you don’t do it, he won’t survive,” said Wrubel, who has been at Children’s for 18 years. “My colleague has a saying: ‘Time is brain,’ The longer you take to get to it, the worse the outcome.”
As Caiden’s parents waited in shock and fear, they could see a crew of their baseball family outside, waving and praying.
“A chaplain from the hospital gave us a prayer to say,” said Tim Wilson, Caiden’s father. “We spent the next hour on our knees.”
The surgery was successful. A blood clot was removed. Within four days, Caiden was moved from the pediatric ICU to the neurology floor where he began to work with therapists. He spent much of his time in The Zone, an area with things like arts and crafts, Xbox and Wii games, and a basketball court.
“I was able to spend lots of my therapy sessions in The Zone,” said Caiden. “I played basketball, putt putt, ping pong. It was right down my alley athletically and was a major contributing factor in getting my hand-eye coordination back.”
Caiden’s age and motivation were favorable for his outcome.
“I have the easier job,” said Wrubel. “My work is during the surgery, but the patient and family have to put the hard work in on the back end by going to therapy, being consistent, staying healthy. It’s easy for physicians to suggest all of that, but it can be hard to do those things.”
April 22, 2022, just nine days after the accident, Caiden was moved to in-patient rehab and was cleared to go home April 27.
“Recovery was tough, but my parents and grandparents instilled a strong faith in me,” said Caiden. “I know God has a plan for me.”
Caiden was cleared to return to travel baseball in the fall and played his first varsity game on Feb. 13, exactly 10 months from the date of his accident.
“I feel blessed to step back on the field,” said Caiden. “I’ll always appreciate putting my uniform on. My perspective toward both life and baseball are changed forever.”
Though there are some lingering fears and nerves for Caiden’s parents, they, too, have an enlightened perspective and are filled with gratitude for their son’s miraculous recovery. They are also proud of his attitude and hard work, a sentiment shared by Caiden’s neurosurgeon.
“I’m proud of how well he’s doing,” said Wrubel. “If he makes it to the majors, I want his first rookie card.”