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Trainer hailed as therapy begins for injured teen
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Trainer Katie Caughell talks about Josh Haddock on Thursday at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. - photo by Jennifer Sami

ATLANTA — Two weeks after undergoing brain surgery, a North Forsyth High School football player is recovering quickly at the Shepherd Center, where he began physical therapy Tuesday.

Josh Haddock’s mother, Natalie Roth, said he “wants to be at the next home game.”

“He wants to walk up on the field and he wants to prove to everybody he can walk on the field,” she said of the Raiders’ Sept. 17 game with Etowah. “I think it’s definitely doable.”

The 17-year-old sought the help of trainer Katie Caughell before he collapsed during an Aug. 25 football practice.

Caughell went into action on Haddock, who was suffering from subdural hematoma, or bleeding from the outside lining of the brain.

During a press conference Thursday at the Shepherd Center, Roth said Caughell’s quick response likely helped save her son’s life.

“We’re now championing for trainers, trained medically certified trainers, on every practice field on every high school and middle school too ... because that’s what saved him,” Roth said.

She added that doctors “literally said he didn’t have another two minutes.”

“It was a beautiful, wonderful relay race where everybody handed the baton off perfectly,” Roth said of the medical response. “I mean nobody bobbled or dropped anything.”

Dr. Darryl Kaelin said Caughell’s ability to identify the problem quickly helped Haddock to “receive medical care in a very effective and quick manner.”

At the Shepherd Center, Haddock will receive three different types of therapy, including working on his walking and balance with a physical therapist.

He will also undergo occupational therapy for improving his upper body and ability to perform daily tasks, as well as speech therapy to help with language and thinking skills.

Haddock has had some mild memory deficits, Kaelin said. While speech isn’t a problem for the senior, he must work on problem solving, planning and other cognitive skills.

Kaelin said it could take between three to six months for Haddock’s physical abilities to fully recover.

Cognitive skills, the physician said, could take as long as nine months to return for Haddock, who has damaged nerve cells.

“Nobody gets 100 percent of their brain cells back,” said Kaelin, noting the focus for recovery is on function and quality of life.

“I think in Josh’s case, he’s going to get a full recovery from a functional standpoint and should have a great quality of life,” he said.

Kaelin noted that Haddock’s recovery thus far has been quick.

“It speaks to the wonders of youth,” he said. “A 17-year old healthy kid recovers a lot faster than a 47-year-old less healthy adult.”

Caughell, a certified trainer, said she had never experienced anything like the Haddock situation, but “at the time, I just did what I had to do.”

“Afterwards it was an emotional roller coaster,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that it takes something like Josh’s situation to bring, or institute, a need for athletic trainers.”

Like all of Forsyth County’s high schools, the funding for Caughell’s work at North comes largely from a private business through the Partnering in Education program.

But from the Raiders’ perspective, school system spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo said, “Katie is a part of the team.”

“Kids are her No. 1 priority and she runs a fantastic program,” said Caracciolo after the press conference. “She is a crucial and integral part of the team.

“Katie is Josh’s guardian angel and she was on the field at the right time that day. Her response to Josh’s situation is a prime example of how instrumental we feel the partnerships are with these private physical therapy businesses.”

North head football coach Jared Zito said the Raiders are a family. The past two weeks for his players have been difficult, but “as Josh improves, their spirits improve.”

“When you go through a trying time like this, you really see what kids are made of,” Zito said at the conference. “One thing I’m most proud of is how they’ve responded since that moment.

“You really don’t know how they truly are until something like this happens.”

His football career may be over, but Haddock’s not too upset because he has his sights set on lacrosse.

Roth said trying out for the lacrosse team at North is her son’s motivation in his recovery. It’s why he’s pushing so hard in physical therapy.

“He wants to play lacrosse so bad,” she said. “He wants to be there for the first game on Feb. 25. He wants to be on that team, on that field, on that day.

“And he’s doing amazing. He is amazing. Which is why I’m not worried.”