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3rd chance at life: Caleb Perkins survives crash 5 years after cardiac arrest on high school track

Caleb Perkins
Posted at 7:11 PM, Jun 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 09:03:22-04

CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — The precious moment filled the hearts of Caleb Perkins and Madi Benoit with joy and was shared on social media. Caleb got down on his left knee on a Florida beach and proposed.

She said yes. That was May 10.

Eleven days later, Caleb's life would hang in the balance following a single motorcycle accident on Romig Road in Akron.

The crash happened before 7 a.m. on May 21 shortly after Caleb left his job at an Amazon warehouse.

Caleb has no memory of the crash. His grandfather, who once worked in the Akron police detective bureau, and his uncle, a state patrolman in North Carolina, drove to the scene days later and came up with a possible theory on what happened.

'What they think happened is when I switched lanes, I hit debris in the middle of the road and it kicked my back tire out, and by the time I was able to regain control, I hit the concrete lip on the right side of the road and it sent me over the handle bars and I wrapped around the pole and a tree," Caleb said.

Caleb broke several ribs, a lung was punctured and both of his legs were shattered.

The damage to the left leg was more severe and doctors amputated it below the knee.

Caleb learned about the amputation after he came out of a medically induced coma 11 days after he was admitted into Cleveland Clinic Akron General Medical Center.

"Mentally, it's something not a lot of people experience or have to go through. I went 22 years and woke up without a foot," he said.

Caleb continues to deal with serious pain to his right leg and phantom feelings on his left side, but said he's fighting hard in physical therapy, which he does twice a week.

Recently, he stood up in PT for the first time since the accident and he's able to get in and out of a motorized wheelchair and go up stairs inside his Cuyahoga Falls home.

Madi has remained at his side throughout the ordeal. The couple has set a wedding date for October 2022 in Hudson.

"There was no question or choice about if I was going to stay and stick by his side. The thought never even crossed my mind. It was, 'Okay, what is our next step together?'"

Caleb fought through tears when he talked about the support from his fiancée.

"A lot of people could have left in that situation knowing it gets hard," he said. "It definitely takes a powerful individual, a powerful woman."

Caleb is also extremely grateful to family and friends who are modifying his home, including building ramps and a shower that will enable Caleb to sit down.

"I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know this is going to be so beneficial," he said.

The motorcycle crash was Caleb's second near-death experience in five years.

In March of 2016, he made headlines after he suffered cardiac arrest while running a 400 meter time trial at Revere High School. He was 16-years-old at the time.

"Nobody really knows this, but I actually technically died twice and they revived me," he said.

It was a team effort by coaches, the athletic trainer and rescue crews to save Caleb.

"The athletic trainer shocked me a couple of times with the portable defibrillators, which is essential and pretty much is what saved my life," he said.

A pacemaker was implanted in Caleb and he has not had any heart trouble since then.

While rest was required following the cardiac arrest episode, Caleb knows physical therapy will be key to his recovery and to adapting to his prosthetic leg which he expects to receive within a few months.

Given a third chance a life, he feels confident he will be able to resume his normal life.

"I'll be a able to run, jog, sprint and do back flips," he said. "One step at a time and build up these chicken legs. Keep fighting.

Caleb has also set a goal of competing in the Paralympics in a few years, mostly likely in track and field.

"I hope to be a beacon of hope for someone going through a similar situation," he said. "I've got God on my side and an amazing support system so how can I really lose?"

A GoFundMe has been created for Caleb to help pay for medical bills, home modifications, therapy and other costs as he continues recovering from the crash.

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