“I was in a coma for three days, and when I woke up I was incoherent, disoriented and paralyzed on my right side. I was like an infant.”
I want to thank everyone for the love and random acts of kindness that you’ve sent my way. I couldn’t have done it without you, and I’m glad to live in Cincinnati, a great baseball town!
by Cole Schlesner
On Sunday, May 17, 2009, the game of baseball almost took my life. I was pitching for my Cincinnati STIX 14u baseball team, something I loved to do more than anything else in my life. Right after I released a pitch, a hard line-drive rocketed directly back at me and the ball struck me directly in the head. I was originally conscious and coherent, but within minutes my condition dramatically changed for the worse.
I was transported by Air Care to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and an emergency CT scan revealed that I had a fractured skull and blood was building inside my skull. I was diagnosed with a serious Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and immediately went into surgery. My family’s life’s priorities changed dramatically. At noon they were probably worried about how I would perform as the starting pitcher, but at 6 pm we were praying for me to survive. I’m sure the entire ordeal was frightening and surreal for them.
Because of the quick actions and skill of the Loveland-Symmes paramedics, the Air Care team, my neurosurgeon, Dr. Francesco Mangano, and countless other clinicians at Children’s Hospital, my life was saved.
I was in a coma for three days, and when I woke up I was incoherent, disoriented and paralyzed on my right side. I was like an infant, having lost most of the basic things I could formerly do. I spent twelve long days and nights in the ICU before I was transferred to the rehab department. I spent another thirty-six days re-learning everything I had lost, including how to eat, talk and walk again.
After finally being discharged, I spent another eighteen months going through outpatient therapy. I also went through three more brain surgeries, including a very complex procedure at Mayo Clinic where a Deep Brain Stimulator (“pacemaker for my brain”) was implanted in my body to help me regain my neuro-muscular coordination. “Thanks” to everyone who played a role in my medical care!
Many people have asked me if I’m bitter at the sport of baseball. I’m not. In fact, I feel the game has given me far more than it’s taken from me. Here are two reasons why:
First, the lessons I learned from playing baseball (commitment, hard work and determination) have helped me grind through the many obstacles and challenges that I’ve faced along the way. Without these, I wouldn’t have made it through my difficult journey to recovery.
Secondly, I have been blessed with incredible support from the baseball community in Greater Cincinnati, and from across the entire country. In particular, the Cincinnati Reds (especially Charley Frank and Aaron Harang), Adam Eaton (Miami University alum, now with the Chicago White Sox) and many others in youth baseball demonstrated incredible acts of kindness. I received over 100 baseballs signed by players on Knothole, Little League, Southwest Ohio League, and high school baseball teams, which are framed and on my bedroom wall.
[quote_left]Whatever challenge you are facing in your life, I encourage you to pray for strength, remain hopeful and stay positive. This approach has helped me persevere.[/quote_left]One morning I received a surprise call Clint Hurdle, the Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, encouraging me to stay strong. Mike Gibbons, a local MLB scout for the Yankees, unexpectedly showed up in my hospital room with gifts. The President of the Cincinnati STIX, Steve Plitt, started a not-for-profit organization called “Play for 4” (my number was 4) that raised money for my recovery, and also purchased over 1,000 protective pitcher’s helmets for local youth baseball teams. I could fill this entire edition of the newspaper with other examples of kindness and love.
When my parents asked me to write and share my baseball love story, I told them that I wanted to share a couple of “life lessons” that I’ve learned along the way. Here they are:
• Life can change in the blink of an eye. Appreciate every moment, day, and person in your life. You never know what will happen “after the next pitch.”
[pull_quote_right]If you’re a pitcher, wear a protective helmet on the mound.[/pull_quote_right]• If you’re a pitcher, wear a protective helmet on the mound. While accidents like mine are rare, when they happen, they can be catastrophic. Pitchers continue to get seriously injured and killed while playing, even in MLB. Trust me; I don’t want any other player to endure what I’ve gone through.
• Whatever challenge you are facing in your life, I encourage you to pray for strength, remain hopeful and stay positive. This approach has helped me persevere.
While I’m not leaving Cincinnati, I’m moving on to the next chapter in my life. After two years at UC Clermont, this fall I will be a junior at Bowling Green State University. I plan to major in Construction Management.
My journey to recovery has been long and hard, but I’ve fed off of the incredible support, positive thoughts and prayers of many people in Greater Cincinnati. I want to thank everyone for the love and random acts of kindness that you’ve sent my way. I couldn’t have done it without you, and I’m glad to live in Cincinnati, a great baseball town!