by Mary Jo David
Some people are born lucky, but some, like Kaden Knight of Stockbridge, don’t realize how lucky they are until surviving an accident that, by all accounts, could have been deadly.
On Thursday, April 18, 2019, Kaden surprised his girlfriend, Lorena González-Galindo with two baby ducks and a sign telling her how lucky he’d be if she would accompany him to the Brighton High School prom. After Lorena said yes to his prom invitation, they tossed the LUCKY sign into the backseat of the truck, took the ducks to their new home and carried on with their day.
Much later, in the predawn hours on Friday, April 19—Good Friday—Kaden was driving home when he likely fell asleep at the wheel. (Kaden doesn’t recall the accident.) His truck, a Ford F250 Diesel beast, left the road at M52 and Milner and plowed into a large tree.
Thirty minutes later, Bryce, a Perry resident driving to work in Jackson, noticed steam spreading across the road. Bryce investigated and found Kaden’s truck, with Kaden inside yelling for help. Bryce phoned 911 around the time two gravel-train drivers pulled over with fire extinguishers ready. All of them stayed with Kaden until EMS arrived.
“I couldn’t believe the driver was conscious,” exclaimed Bryce, recalling the condition of the truck and its front smashed beyond recognition. “EMS got there really quick—about 12 minutes by my calculations.” The LUCKY sign in the backseat of the truck went unnoticed while the first responders focused on extracting Kaden from the vehicle and trying to save his life.
Kaden’s mom, Suzanne Stahl of Stockbridge, received a call from Sparrow Hospital in Lansing at around 6:30 a.m. Even with extensive injuries, Kaden was managing to communicate with the hospital staff. But police warned Suzanne that Kaden had lost a lot of blood and may have suffered brain trauma. Their recommendation: Get to the hospital quickly. Half in a fog, Suzanne arrived at the hospital.
“I understand they couldn’t stop working on Kaden to update me,” Suzanne said, “so I was really glad when my boyfriend Chuck Steers’ daughter Ashley appeared. She is a Williamston firefighter and was able to get to the hospital before me. So when I arrived, she filled me in and continued to get regular updates to us. She and Chuck, along with my family, have been amazing through this.”
Suzanne knew Kaden was going to be okay when, on his way to surgery that fateful morning, she squeezed his hand and told him she loved him. Kaden, who had been fitful and agitated, immediately calmed down when he heard his Mom’s words. But his injuries were extensive: a broken femur; an open knee fracture; face lacerations that required 100+ stitches; a broken collarbone, foot bone, and rib; lung and liver issues, and more.
Kaden’s LUCKY sign eventually appeared in his hospital room, and after a week in the hospital, he was able to return home to continue his recovery.
Life has taken a completely different turn for this high school senior and his family. Before, his time was spent with school, playing hockey, and preparing to enlist in the Navy. Now his mom accompanies Kaden to two, sometimes three, medical appointments a day. His grandmother, Judi Cook of Fowlerville, who owns Cravingz Coffee Shop in Stockbridge, considers Kaden a walking, talking miracle. To show the family’s appreciation, on May 8, Cook hosted a gathering at Cravingz, so Kaden could meet and thank some of the first responders who came to his rescue.
“When we left him on the night of the accident, I was hopeful that this young person would make it,” said Ginny Depew, Stockbridge paramedic. “When I met him at Cravingz a few weeks later, I was blown away by how good he looked and that he was talking about attending his prom in a week.”
“I’ve changed my ideas about what it’s like to be disabled,” noted Kaden, confined to a wheelchair while his injuries heal. “I definitely understand the struggle better, and I feel much more connected to my family and realize now how important it is to appreciate the times I have with them.”
As for that prom invitation, once more Kaden’s luck held out. Looking handsome and happy, he was able to accompany his lovely date to the BHS Prom on May 11.
Kaden’s brother, Hunter Hammerschmidt, and Hunter’s girlfriend, Liz Rapp, started a GoFundMe page for Kaden, which is still active at https://www.gofundme.com/1ma274ld6o.