Grand Forks teen begins long rehab after biking accident results in spinal injury
Caleb Block, 15, was riding a mountain bike in Detroit Lakes with friends when he lost control and suffered the injury.
The family of Grand Forks teen Caleb Block is thankful for every little improvement the last couple of weeks.
Still, a long rehabilitation awaits the 15-year-old avid BMX racer and bantam hockey player who suffered a spinal injury while riding a mountain bike on Detroit Mountain in Detroit Lakes, Minn.
In the late afternoon of June 19, Block -- while wearing a helmet -- thought he spotted a trouble spot up ahead at the base of a jump. So in avoiding the jump, he lost control and suffered a C4 spinal injury.
Spinal injuries are classified in three categories -- cervical (top of the spine), thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower spine). A C1 injury would be at the top of the spine.
After the injury, Block was life-flighted to Sanford in Fargo where he underwent surgery. After the surgery, Block had no movement on his right side and his left side was very weak and limited.
"He's gradually improving each day," said Cory Block, Caleb's dad. "He has some movement. From what it was, that's fairly impressive. He has limited movement in his right leg but can move his right leg and toes. He can move his right arm in pretty limited fashion. His right hand he can just barely get a twinge of movement."
Caleb, who has raced BMX since he was 7, has been at Sanford in Fargo since the accident. He's scheduled to fly to Colorado and spend at least a couple of months at Craig Hospital, which specializes in spinal cord injuries.
"Every day a little, tiny thing is better," Cory said. "At first, his left hand couldn't make a fist and now he can close that hand."
Caleb's long-term outlook is tricky. Some medical professionals are very cautious to promise too much while others share stories of great recovery.
During his stay in Fargo, Caleb received a visit from former UND football captain Hunter Pinke, who severed his spine in a skiing accident in late 2019.
Pinke helped steer the Blocks to rehab at Craig Hospital, where Pinke also did his rehab.
Pinke's injury was considered a complete spinal injury, while Block's is incomplete.
"Every spinal injury is unique," Cory said. "Having seen the very slow, tiny incremental improvements are encouraging. Doctors say it's a long deal and we can't expect change overnight."
Cory said the accident created a few scary days right away.
"Once we knew the breathing and eating was safe, those were reassuring things," Cory said. "If it doesn't get better, we've made peace with that. We know it's bound to be somewhat better and while we hope for the best, we've really taken a day-by-day approach. We don't try to think too far ahead."
Cory said his son, who also likes golf and snowboarding, has handled everything like "a champ."
"Initially, like the rest of us, he was very scared," Cory said. "He just wanted to get home and know if he could walk again. In the last five or six days, it has been remarkable how he's turned around his attitude and been positive and thankful it wasn't worse than it was. His friends have come down to visit a few times, and he's able to talk and laugh and crack jokes."
Cory said Pinke's visit was "amazing."
"Hunter was a ray of light and inspiration for all of us," Cory said. "I think that level of support and support from the community as a whole has been appreciated. We talked about rehab and (Pinke) was honest about the work it'll be but also the good things that'll come of it. He explained it changes your course in life but doesn't end it. There are positive things that can come out of situations. He helped paint a brighter picture. That really meant something to (Caleb)."
Pinke posted about the visit on his Facebook page.
"Had the privilege of meeting Caleb Block and his family," Pinke wrote. "What an incredible kid! I went there with the hope of inspiring, and left the one inspired."
A GoFundMe has been created for the Block family , while an account has also been set up at First State Bank in Grand Forks.