Boy making remarkable progress after a brick nearly killed him

2019-05-29 13:14
Cadden Slabbert. (Photo: Supplied)

Cadden Slabbert. (Photo: Supplied)

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Four years ago, Caden Slabbert (12) was on the brink of death after he was hit by a cement brick while his family were travelling on the N12 highway.

His dad, Justin Slabbert, flagged down an ambulance and an unconscious Caden (then 8) was rushed to the Union Hospital in Alberton. When they arrived, cerebral fluid was seeping out of his mouth and nose and the left side of Caden’s skull was pulverised.

In 2015 Justin and his children, Caden and Eden (then 12), were travelling on the N12 near Alberton on their way to Benoni when an unknown man threw a cement brick through the car’s window.

Justin instinctively checked the back seat to see if Eden was okay. She hadn’t been injured but Caden was badly hurt.

That night a neurosurgeon removed a large portion of Caden’s skull to relieve the pressure on his swollen brain. He’d also suffered a stroke.

For weeks it was touch and go and Caden’s life hung by a thread. But he pulled through. Now, Caden is healthy and happy. He lives in Utah, America, with his mom, Andriette Cooper, 16-year-old sister Eden, stepdad Gordon, and half-sibling Michael (6) and Meya (4). The family moved there two years ago.

“Caden’s told me several times he recalls seeing a white light,” Andriette writes in an email to YOU about the incident, which happened on Thursday 30 April 2015. “In his diary he wrote, ‘I saw a white light brighter than the whitest piece of paper.’ Then he talks about someone who walked with him in that white light. We’re a Christian family and we’re 100% convinced Jesus was with him.”

Justin, who divorced from Andriette in 2009, says it’s hard to be so far from his children but he takes comfort in knowing they’re living in a safer country.

“I miss my kids terribly,” says Justin, who lives in Benoni. “I haven’t seen them since they left. But Caden’s growing up and dreams of becoming a scientist and building robots.

Justin and Cadden Slabbert

“It was hard for me that they had to leave the country but as a parent you want what’s best for your kids. The kids and I were in an armed hijacking about two years before the brick incident. They have the best future where they are now and I want that for them, no matter how hard it is for me.”

Andriette says Caden has made remarkable progress in the past four years and enjoys his life in America.

“We’ve been in Utah for two years now and he’s incredibly happy here,” she writes.

“We’ve had the full American experience of snow, Thanksgiving, a white Christmas, snowball fights, Halloween and parades. In his first year here, Caden walked in one of the parades.”

She says the children have visited several new places.

“We’ve taken the kids to Lake Tahoe, Lake Powell, Portland in Oregon and Astoria. Caden enjoys going fishing with his stepdad so that’s what they do in summer.”

Cadden Slabbert

Because of his brain injury, Caden gets special tuition. He’ll be going to Grade 6 in September, the start of the American school year. Only children with learning disabilities due to brain damage or other disabilities qualify for the special-education plan in the US, Andriette explains.

“Caden is given less homework, more time to write tests, more time to study, less material to learn, and so forth.

“He’s happy in his school. He’s always made friends easily. But he’s becoming a teenager and sometimes the mood swings can be intense. He isn’t always in a mood for friends but it’s usually not for long.

“He’s actively involved in our church’s youth programme.”

She says though Caden has made good progress, he does struggle with certain areas because of the brain injury.

“People who don’t know him, don’t notice anything’s wrong with him. There are areas where he still struggles and possibly always will – especially his reading skills and work tempo. But he’s reading much better than he used to. It does exhaust him though because his brain works extra-hard.

“Sometimes he struggles to form words or sentences and his thought processing is slower than that of other kids his age or in his class. His sight has improved. One side of his tongue is a little weaker than the other, and one side of his body – his right arm and leg – is weaker . . . because of the stroke he suffered.

“He’s proud of his ‘man scar’ and wears his hair short so it’s visible,” she says of the large scar on Caden’s skull.

“I don’t think his right side will ever quite recover but miracles do happen and if it’s God’s will and plan, then it will be so.”

Cadden Slabbert

She says apart from the two surgeries he had at the time to remove his skull and then repair it with titanium, he still receives several types of treatment, including speech and occupational therapy, as well as psychological therapy.

“Caden tires easily and has to rest often. But he’s never had a seizure again and he’s not on medication to prevent it.”

Andriette says despite all the challenges, they’ve learnt valuable lessons from the experience.

“It’s interesting because you’d think it’s the worst thing that ever could’ve happened. It’s definitely not something I ever want to go through again, but we’ve grown so much spiritually.

Cadden Slabbert and his siblings

“We talk about it often but no one is angry, hateful or vengeful. On the contrary, whenever we ask Caden how he feels about it, he says he feels sorry for the man who threw the brick because he knows that [he] will be held accountable someday – and it’ll be painful.”

Pictures: Supplied

Read more on:    progress  |  accident  |  recovery  |  brick
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