Fourteen-year-old Caleb and his family — mom, dad and three other siblings — go boating on the Manatee River several times a week.
“It’s a good way to get away from everything,” Caleb says. “It’s a lot of fun.”
“I would say it’s a big part of our life and Caleb never remembers a time when he didn’t fish,” says Caleb’s dad, Rick. “And that’s what he was doing when he got hurt.”
Kelli and Rick Bennett had just arrived in the Bahamas to celebrate their wedding anniversary when they received an emergency phone call.
“We just heard that there was a boating accident and that an anchor hit him in the head,” Rick explains.
Caleb remembers thinking he needed to stay calm, cool and collected.
“As soon as I got my hands on it, I kind of felt what it was, and I realized it was in my head pretty far. I just stayed calm. I told my friend, ‘Hey, you need to call 911 or I’m going to die,’” Caleb reflects.
“Dr. Rodriguez tells us that timing was everything,” Kelli says. “They were going to have to do an emergency craniotomy. We needed to get back quickly.”
So they hopped on the next flight back home to get to Caleb as soon as possible.
“We needed to take out a big piece of skull try to take out the pieces of bone and whatever else he had in there from the anchor,” says Luis Rodriguez, M.D., a pediatric neurological surgeon at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. “And more important, give his brain space to swell because that’s what was going to happen.”
Caleb was put into a medically induced coma after his surgery while his brain swelling subsided.
“When I first saw Caleb, I thought I was going to be sick,” says Kelli in tears. “It’s very hard to see your kid hooked up to every tube, to see that stand with seven to 12 different medicines going in his body. Neck brace.”
“We didn’t know if there was a chance he wouldn’t be able to talk or move his arms or legs,” Rick says.
But by day eight, things were looking positive.
“It looked like we were going to get him back the way we had him before,” says Rick.
Several days later, Rodriguez showed the family a 3-D image of all the blood vessels in Caleb’s brain and how lucky it was that the anchor did not touch any of them. Everyone caring for Caleb kept calling him a “miracle.”
“I’ve seen arrows through and through [the head]. I’ve seen bullets through and through [the head]. I’ve seen things like this, but I’ve never seen an anchor, number one, and number two, I’ve never seen anybody with an injury like that walk out of the hospital almost completely neurologically intact. That’s one in a million,” Rodriguez explains.
“We’ll forever be in debt to Johns Hopkins All Children’s,” Rick says. “I couldn’t have imagined a level of care was even available, with so many people working around the clock.”
“And now here we are, ultimately sitting with really the same Caleb we had,” Kelli says. “It’s really quite a miracle.”
Now Caleb is slowly but surely getting back on the water and fishing again, and is eager to pursue his newest passion — spearfishing.
“I can’t believe I had an anchor in my head. Like, that’s pretty crazy. My friends now call me the ‘Anchorman’ so that’s kind of cool. I’m kind of a big deal around here,” Caleb says with a smile on his face.