Pokagon youth learns to walk again

In October of 2016, citizen Caiden Baxter called his mom on a friend’s phone and said, “I am paralyzed from the waist down.” His mom thought it was a joke at first, but he assured her he was serious. Caiden’s life changed in an instant. He was driving a four-wheeler with a friend, and suddenly he crashed and the vehicle landed on top of him. He was paralyzed, but after two and a half years of pushing his limits, his life is changing yet again.

In the moments after the crash, Caiden reached into his pocket for his phone, and he knew he was paralyzed because he couldn’t feel his hand touch his leg. He says he pushed past fear to focus on getting help.

Medics airlifted Caiden to the intensive care unit in Indianapolis, and there he began his long recovery. Caiden’s doctor explained to Caiden’s mom, Lori Baxter, that the odds of Caiden ever walking again was one in five, then he asked her if she understood. Lori said, “Yes, you just told me my son is the one in five.” She said she knew her son and that he wouldn’t settle for just walking “household distances.” She was right.

Caiden kept pushing. Any exercise sequence the physical trainer showed, Caiden doubled the reps. He says he kept positive and never settled for the easiest option. Lori says she pushed him to do more than the doctors said that he could, and in each check-up, he surprised his doctors and exceeded their expectations for what was possible.

“It’s a lot easier to keep pushing forward when you know you have a lot of pepole there to support you and who are just as excited for your recovery as you are,” Caiden said.

Caiden was bedridden, then confined to a wheelchair, then up with a walker, then with crutches, and now, he uses a single crutch to stabilize himself.

Caiden looked to mentors like Dr. Feranmi Okanlami, who at the time coached the local River City Rollers, a wheelchair basketball team, then inspired Caiden to follow him to California to participate in Project Walk, an activity-based rehab facility.

Now, people are reaching out to Caiden for inspiration and help, like one man on Instagram who fell down the stairs and joked his biggest regret was that he didn’t have a good story to tell about his injury like a four-wheeler accident, but who ultimately benefitted from talking with a fellow fighter.

Caiden’s next goal is to walk without leg braces as he finishes his last year of high school and looks toward college, where he plans to major in pre-med to become a doctor, himself.