In baseball, even the best player fails to get on base most of the time. The game teaches perseverance. On this night two physical therapists, a cardiologist and a neurosurgeon were in attendance at 120th and West Dodge Road. It was an impressive representation of the medical field considering the game featured high school freshmen.
They were all watching number 12. “I always had this opinion that I was going to be okay,” said Vince Carollo.
This was the first time Carollo had suited up on the same diamond that nearly cost him everything. Nearly a year ago, he was face down in the infield and motionless. He had slid headfirst, catching his head on the knee of the third basemen and broke his neck. All signs pointed to paralysis.
“It's nothing short of a miracle, this is absolutely a miracle,” said Creighton University Medical Center neurosurgeon Dr. Ferdinand Matanaj. “Small part is what we did, a big part is he has the heart of a champion."
Last May, Dr. Matanaj made sure to limit the pressure on Vince's spinal cord so the bruising didn't get worse. It didn't. It's taken the 15-year-old months to get to this point.
Spinal cord injuries rarely have this type of turnaround and when his physical therapists get one of these cases, they just had to be there. “When I first saw Vince he wasn't walking and hadn't even stood up yet,” said Immanuel Medical Center physical therapist Christie Glab. “To see him out here a year-and-a-half later playing baseball and being successful at it, he's just an amazing kid."
Vince's doctors told him that because of the risk of breaking another vertebrae in his neck, he would have to give up contact sports, so no more football or basketball. Even though baseball is the sport where the injury happened, his family supports his decision.
“The decision was always going to be up to him and his doctors,” said Vince’s mother, Mary Carollo. “I don't think we knew how difficult it would be to watch."
It's never more tense than when Vince slides into a base. Mary whispers to herself, feet first, feet first. “Whenever I slide I have to look at my mom to make sure she is okay. I know she gets a little antsy about that."
We know parents push their children, shouting advice on how to get better, rooting for the game-winning hit or clutch play and that was true for Vince's father before the injury. And now?
"I marvel at watching my son walk and run out to his position and get his teammates a high-five, just those basic simple physical activities, that's what I'm treasuring right now," said Scott Carollo.
When the fear had been whether Vince would ever walk again, getting hit by a pitch is no longer a big deal.
Vince says the strength of his left arm and legs are still off a bit. Creighton Prep lost the game to Burke. Vince was 1-for-3 at the plate.