By Betsy Veysman
14 pounds may not seem too heavy. 50 feet may not seem too far. The Paddocks would disagree.
When the winter holiday break ended in January, eighth grader Aaron Paddock returned to Warsaw Middle School with his classmates.
“I was pretty excited to go back,” he said. “But it was a pretty normal day.”
After the events of the past five months, to the outsider it seems far from normal. In fact, according to Aaron’s father Brad, one of the doctors at Buffalo Children’s Hospital said she “had never truly witnessed a miracle firsthand” before.
The story began at the end of August. Members of the Paddock family were cutting down trees in their yard when a branch weighing about 14 pounds fell over 50 feet and hit Aaron in the head, crushing his skull.
After rushing him to the local hospital, he was quickly airlifted to Buffalo where the outlook appeared grim.
“There was a lot of brain swelling,” Brad Paddock said. “We just kept getting more and more bad news over those first few days. First, they weren’t sure if he would even live. But if he did, the doctors told us he may never walk again or ever speak again. He was paralyzed on his left side and they thought that might be permanent too.”
The original plan outlined by the doctors was for Aaron to be in the hospital through November. They removed part of his skull and inserted it into his stomach so it would regenerate. At the end of the three months, the plan was to place the skull back into his head and then have him live in a full time rehabilitation facility in Rochester for 60 days to try to help him regain function.
The Paddock family, made up of Brad and his wife Jeanie as well their children Jessica (26), Nikki (24), Paul (23), Luke (22), Ian (21), Joey (18), Burke (16) and Ellen (12), decided that if Aaron was going to call the hospital home for months, he wouldn’t ever be alone.
“My mom and I stayed in the hospital pretty much the whole time,” Ian said. “We took shifts. I did the nights, my mom did the mornings and everyone else came in at other parts of the day. There was always someone holding his hand and encouraging him, 24 hours a day.”
For Ian, a scholarship wrestler at Ohio State University, the decision to stay by his brother’s side was an easy one. The former four-time New York state champion had already decided to redshirt this season as a junior but was planning to go back to Columbus. However, after the accident, he called Buckeyes head coach Tom Ryan, who immediately suggested that he stay in New York to help Aaron with his recovery.
Despite the original prognosis, Ian recalled some of the hospital milestones that suggested that Aaron was going to overcome the accident.
“The first day of real excitement came about two weeks in,” Ian said. “They had just taken the tube out of his throat and they were trying to wake him up out of the coma. I remember Paul and I were trying to get [Aaron] to follow instructions like ‘move your thumb, move your fingers.’ Pretty soon he did it. He wasn’t moving for two weeks then there he was, following commands. It was so encouraging. He was way ahead of where they thought he would be.”
And then there was the first time Aaron spoke.
“After he was out of the coma, I asked one of the nurses when he would be able to talk again,” Brad Paddock said. “She told me I had to be more patient, it would take at least a month. Ian was in his face that day, talking to him and telling him he could do it. [Ian] just wouldn’t let him off the hook. Eight hours later, he looked at Ian and said, ‘Your breath smells.’ It was just unbelievable.”
“We both starting laughing,” Ian added. “It wasn’t the first thing I wanted to hear him say, but it was great for him to be able to talk again.”
34 days after entering the hospital, the day before his 15th birthday, Aaron Paddock was released from the hospital to his home in Warsaw.
“They thought it would take three months for the skull to be ready, but it went much faster,” Brad Paddock said. “The swelling in his head had gone down and the doctors were able to put it back successfully. They said the recovery process was accelerated beyond what they had seen before. Since he was already walking and talking, they decided he could skip the rehab facility altogether and just come back home.”
Aaron was supposed to slowly continue his rehabilitation when he returned. But according to Ian, the first thing Aaron did when he entered the house was sprint up the steps as fast as he could. Right behind him was Ian, which became a common theme.
Every day in the Paddock household for Ian, Jeanie and Aaron was busy, with both therapy and schoolwork.
“There were a few hours of homework each day,” Ian said. “He had his physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) for a few weeks. We did some light lifts and strength training. We did other workouts too.”
“Ian went to every therapy session with Aaron and then doubled it and tripled it once they got back home,” Brad added. “We all worked to stimulate him non-stop, whether it was bean bag toss, darts, Connect Four or checkers. Ian stayed by his side the whole time and showed him love and support while pushing him hard. Both he and Aaron used a wrestler’s mentality.”
“I don’t think I would have had the strength to fight through everything without the wrestling mentality,” Aaron agreed.
The Paddock family is full of accomplished grapplers. Paul, a two-time state champion, competed at Edinboro. Ian was an NCAA qualifier in both his true freshman and sophomore campaigns at Ohio State. Burke was a 171-pound state runner up as a freshman last year and is nationally ranked.
Aaron, however, had the best seventh grade performance of any of the brothers, going 50-5 according to the NWCA Scorebook and taking sixth at 103 pounds at the state tournament in Albany in 2011.
He has been cleared to participate in some team sports and plans to run track this spring and possibly play soccer in the fall. Of course, there’s another squad he would like to join as well.
“I’m running two miles everyday and working out also,” Aaron said. “Wrestling is my favorite sport, though, and I really hope I can wrestle again by next year.”
Brad Paddock said that next month they are going to Washington D.C. to get a brain scan and see one of the top doctors in the country for brain injuries.
“We know it’s his desire to get back to wrestling,” he said. “But we can’t let him do it without knowing for sure that it’s not a greater risk for him than anyone else. He was determined to start wrestling this January but we knew that wasn’t going to happen. We will make sure we aren’t taking big risks. The best doctors in the country will tell us what they think.”
In the meantime, Ian feels he has gained a new appreciation for the sport he and his family love. He is coming off a neck injury and is not yet able to fully train and practice. However, he is working toward rejoining the Buckeyes lineup for the 2012-13 campaign at 133 or 141 pounds.
“[Aaron] might not be able to do something he truly loves ever again,” Ian said. “It puts it in perspective for me. I have to give all I have for me and for him. There are no excuses. If I don’t feel good in practice or workouts, I think of him and how he doesn’t have the chance to wrestle and make myself go harder.”
Ian Paddock’s talent has never been in question. He handed Cornell’s two-time national champion Kyle Dake his last high school loss, 9-4, in the 2008 130 pound state championship match when both were juniors. According to Ian, he then beat Dake again a few months later in a freestyle event in Las Vegas. The difference in college as freshmen, Paddock said, was mental.
“In high school, I never expected to be beaten. When I came into college, I accepted that some kids could beat me. I should have had the mindset that I had the ability to be the best and I would have had a better outcome. It seems that Kyle Dake believed that no one could beat him from the very beginning. That’s one of the reasons for his success.”
Success is something Aaron Paddock has certainly achieved over the past five months. Despite missing 17 weeks of school, he completely caught up and is doing well academically. He is beating his father in darts and other family members in other games. He is, in his own words, “back to my old self.”
While he will not have his hand raised on the mats this season, he will be receiving another honor. Buffalo Children’s Hospital informed the Paddocks last week that Aaron has been named its Inspirational Patient of the Year.
For an update on the Paddock family from October 2012, see here.
Thank you for the wonderful story. A families love mixed with the mindset of a wrestler equals great things! Anyone in NY that wrestles knows the name Paddock. And you don’t mess with a Paddock, even if you’re a tree! Continued success!
As a Buckeye & a wrestling mom, this story is truly uplifting but not surprising. I know Ian & anyone in the sport of wrestling knows the mental toughness a wrestler has. Prayers your way & keep up the hard work Aaron. God bless!
Wow, I heard about this but was never sure of the details. Running two miles everyday after something like that is crazy. Sidenote – Is Ian Paddock behind Steiber this year?
Section III Ian took the year off to help Aaron. Steiber is in his spot right now though. Im sure he will be back next year at Ohio State.
Great story and great wrestling site. Keep up the great work!
What an awesome story…The best to the whole “Team Paddock” Looking forward to hearing more great things from you all. Good luck on and off the mat Paddock family.
Great job Ian , keep up the hard work AAron we’re all praying for a full recovery . God Bless Mariacher family
Incredible story so well told. Stories of recovery often forget how much time and effort the loved ones give to the person they love. This story is about family and that’s what makes it so special. Thank you!
I live in Columbus, Oh and grew up in upstate NY. I went to see Ohio State Wrestle a few weeks ago and was hoping to see Ian wrestle. Now I know why he wasn’t there. Amazing story and family. I wish them all the best!
It’s great to hear that Aaron is doing so well. Hat’s off to Ian for stepping up to help out. Keep working hard, we are praying for a full recovery.
Wrestling fan from Spencerport. On behalf of our team and fans best of luck. Hope to see you at next years teike bernabi tournament.
Great story, continue your progress and hope to see you around the mats again! Thanks for the update!
This is an unbelievable story. God bless the Paddocks. Everyone is very happy that Aaron has made a remarkable recovery. he fought against all odds and it was the optimism and the “wrestling Mentality” that made it all possible. We hope and pray he is able to return to the mat next season.
So glad to hear of Aaron amazing progress… That can do never give up wrestling attitude is shining through. I look forward to seeing him back on the mat soon.
Amazing and inspiring story. Best of luck with the continued rehab. Hope to read about you taking to the mats again next year. God Bless and best of luck with everything from here on out!
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Great article! I just linked this story to the Section 9 site….well done!
Awesome and inspiring story. Thank you so much for sharing
Great story!!!!! Just shows the ability of elite wrestlers to recover from serious accidents. I know of many but this is the most impressive. Way to go!!!!!!
What an incredible, inspiational story. God bless you all. May your faith be strengthened. I hope to see a Paddock on the U.S.A. Olympic team. Although they are, and have been already, completely successful.
Keep up the good work Aaron. and Ian you have always been a good big brother. Love and good New Years wishes to the whole Paddock family, Marcia & Ed Gould
Glad to hear you are doing well and making a great recovery! Keep it up. Best wishes,
Coach Ray Adams and the Long Beach Wrestling Program
We are happy you are coming along so well, the drews
wish all the best, you will be in our prays, Iam glade god
is on your side.
Wrestling is truly a state of mind.. Seems he is still a champion wrestler wrestling with a different kind of opponent.
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Amazing story, amazing family….
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Luke Paddock, his older brother, worked with me for 3 months at strong adolescent psych inpatient and he is so amazing. Luke is my role model. To hear what his family went through breaks my heart. Luke is good hearted and that family is absolutely a gift from god. I am beyond glad to have met Luke. He is so inspirational to me. He helped me to recovery. he gave me strength. i love him. I’m sad that i never got to say goodbye to him. He was always there for me. And if Aaron is like Luke then I know he is just as amazing as Luke and will accomplish great things in life. If anyone that knows the family gets the chance, please Tell Luke how much he means to me and my prayers go out to the family. Stay strong.
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