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Still standing

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After being charged by a bull, Caleb Clark achieved his goal of walking on his wedding day

By Marlena Stokes 

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Summer Intern

mestok14@students.campbellsville.edu

Caleb Clark of Lebanon faced the challenge of a lifetime on Halloween of 2015, when he was charged by a bull. Since then, he’s undergone four separate surgeries and countless hours of physical therapy and rehabilitation to be able to reach his goal of walking again, specifically on his wedding day, which he did on June 11, 2016.

Caleb began working at Multigen in Stanford, where they breed cattle, in August of 2015. When he first began working at the clinic, he worked Saturday shifts. The day of the bull attack was a Saturday, and he was alone.

“I was in the pen trying to clean the bulls’ feed bucket,” Caleb said. “When I did, the bull charged me. I tried to jump the gate, and when I did the bull got me in the back, causing a hematoma. I don’t remember anything after that except pulling myself through the rungs into the feeder.”

Caleb somehow managed to call his fiancé, Amelia, who was an hour away in Lebanon. She called for an ambulance. 

“I had no idea how serious it was,” she said. “He told me he needed an ambulance, and I asked him what happened. It wasn’t until he started screaming that I realized.”

After calling 911, she immediately left work and drove to Stanford.

Caleb was flown to UK Healthcare instead of the local hospital in hopes of saving his leg, which was also seriously injured during the attack.

Months after the incident, Amelia said she and Caleb spoke to the EMT that had responded to the scene of the accident. 

“He said that Caleb’s leg was mangled when he got there,” said Amelia. “Dislocated backwards, and that he was the one that made the call to send him to UK over the local hospital. He said Caleb was a champ.”

Caleb said once the EMTs got to the scene and started moving him around, he could feel the pain, but he could not receive medication for the pain until he was in the ambulance. The EMTs couldn’t pop his dislocated knee back into place, so Caleb endured that pain through an ambulance and helicopter ride to the hospital. 

“When it first happened, I couldn’t feel anything,” he said. “From the waist down, I couldn’t feel anything, so I thought I was paralyzed.”

At UK, several tests were run and Caleb’s knee was put back into place. He underwent emergency surgery to save a torn artery in his upper right leg.

“They then did a fasciotomy that same night where they cut his leg on both sides to relieve the pressure inside,” said Amelia. 

In all, Caleb was in the hospital for a week after the accident. A wound VAC was placed on his leg to slowly close the open wound and pull out infection. Once they returned home, an at-home nurse came every day to change Caleb’s bandage. 

“We did that for six weeks, but even after that it was still another six weeks until the wound was healed,” said Caleb.

When his wound finally healed, he had knee reconstruction surgery. 

He said the hardest part of his rehabilitation process was having an external fixator on his leg, which is a diamond shaped metal contraption that screwed into the bones to keep it from moving. This was placed on his leg during the reconstruction surgery. 

“I binge watched a lot on Netflix,” Caleb said, laughing. “Friday Night Lights, Lost, Prison Break, and I watched a lot of movies.” 

Caleb said there were parts of the rehabilitation process that were very discouraging. 

“I was getting around pretty decent before I got my knee reconstruction surgery,” said Caleb. “Once I had the surgery, it kind of went downhill.” 

Caleb explained that after the surgery, the ligaments in his knee were not stretched out, so he could not bend his knee well. 

“I had to go backwards to go forwards again,” said Caleb of the reconstruction surgery, which was when the external fixator was applied and stayed for six weeks. After that, he just had a brace to wear on his knee. In all, his recovery process took nearly a year.

After the incident and during his recovery, Caleb made it a goal to be able to walk without the aid of crutches by the date of his June 2016 wedding, and he did. But, their honeymoon to Hawaii ended up being put on hold until October of 2016, when Caleb could walk better. 

It was July of 2016 when Caleb was told at a check-up that he could return to work if he felt like he could handle it, as long as he continued his physical therapy. Initially, he worked part-time, and continued physical therapy three days a week.

Amelia struggled most when Caleb returned to work.

“If he hadn’t texted me in over an hour, I’d start to panic,” she said. “Or, if he didn’t answer a phone call. I was so scared.”

Returning to work also meant facing the bulls once again, Caleb said. 

“I was pretty nervous,” he said. “Extra cautious, you never know when they’re going to turn on you.”

Though Caleb is back to his normal life activities, he still has a bit of pain when the weather is cold or it rains.

Caleb still attends check-ups once a year to get an ultrasound of the artery that was torn in the attack. But, for the most part, he’s able to chase his 18-month-old son, Cason, around.

“It’s hard keeping up with him,” said Caleb. “It’s hard getting on the ground with him, because I can’t squat or anything.”

The couple has had endless support from the community, friends and family during Caleb’s long recovery. 

Amelia said Kroger, where she worked at the time of the accident, raised money to help the couple make a house payment, and some of Caleb’s friends built a ramp outside the house they lived in at the time.

“It was already there when we got home,” said Amelia. “We had a really good support system.”

Caleb’s story is featured on University of Kentucky Hospital’s website: www.ukhealthcare.com.