EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (RELEASE FROM MAYO CLINIC HEALTH SYSTEM)-- Jan. 29, 2015, is a night the parents of Mackenzie “Mick” Caron will never forget.
That’s when they learned their son, a senior hockey player at Chippewa Falls High School, had lost control of his vehicle on an icy road and been ejected from the vehicle. He was not wearing a seatbelt.
Caron was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls and then transported by helicopter to Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire. His initial prognosis was grim.
Mick arrived in a coma, facing life-threatening head injuries, a broken left arm and a fractured right hand.
“When I first saw him, his neurological exam was very poor,” explains T.K. Schiefer, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System. “He had a little bit of movement but not much, and his CT scan was very worrisome.” A CT (computerized tomography) scan combines a series of X-ray images to create cross-sectional images of the body.
Concerned about how much Mick’s brain was swelling, coupled with dangerous bleeding on top of the brain, Dr. Schiefer was ready to do whatever he could to prevent Mick’s condition from further deteriorating.
“We took him to the operating room right away, and I was able to talk to his parents right before. I told them the nature of the operation and that it could be a life-saving procedure,” Dr. Schiefer says. “At that point, I wasn’t sure what his prognosis would be.”
Dr. Schiefer performed what’s known as a hemicraniectomy, which means removing half of the skull, on the left side of the head. The surgical procedure helped relieve some of the pressure building in Mick’s brain and kept his brain from shifting.
“If we didn’t take him (into surgery), I worried that he wouldn’t make it, but we also didn’t know what kind of outcome we would have,” explains Dr. Schiefer. “We knew that this could save his life, but we didn’t know what kind of life that would be.”
For nearly two weeks, his medical team and family watched and waited as Mick remained unconscious. They monitored his condition with subsequent CT scans. Concerned that Mick’s body was not re-absorbing the cerebrospinal fluid as it should, Dr. Schiefer performed additional surgeries to insert drains in various locations to drain the excess fluid and reduce pressure. Later, he also placed a shunt from Mick’s brain to his abdomen. All told, Mick underwent seven surgeries as a result of his accident.
Mick spent a month at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, and his friends and family rallied for him all the while.
“It felt good to have the support,” Mick says. “I don’t really remember anything from the whole accident until about a month afterwards. When I looked at it then it was really comforting to see how many people cared about me.”
Following his discharge, Mick went to an inpatient rehabilitation facility at Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, for five weeks. And now, four months from his accident, he is back to most all normal activities, will graduate from high school on June 5 and is preparing for college at the University of Minnesota this fall.
“He’s beaten all the odds and made a near-full recovery,” Dr. Schiefer says.
To Mick’s parents and medical providers – Dr. Schiefer included – Mick is a miracle.
“For weeks, we didn’t know what was going to happen,” adds John Caron, Mick’s father. “He’s not paralyzed, and he’s coming back so fast. Yes, that is a miracle. It could be so much worse.”
The Caron family says they can’t thank Mick’s medical team enough. “The nurses and staff at Mayo were wonderful,” John says.
Mick’s mother, Sara, agrees.
“We had a really good trauma doctor right away that first night, and Dr. Schiefer’s a really good surgeon. We were really lucky that the stars aligned, and those people were available,” Sara says. “It was excellent treatment. Twenty-four hours a day, they were there for him.”