PLYMOUTH, Wis. — A toddler is lucky to be alive after falling about 15 feet onto concrete at a high school wrestling tournament.
It happened on Saturday at Plymouth High School.
Cainan Hardenburg, who turns two years old in four months, suffered a broken eye socket and badly-bruised skull.
“When I think about what happened, it feels like a knife tearing through me,” said AJ Hardenburg, Cainan's dad.
They were on the second floor of Plymouth High School’s gym, looking down on a wrestling match.
“I was in what I thought was the best position, standing in front of the stairs, blocking them to prevent Cainan from trying to go down them,” AJ said. “He was walking up to the railing, and within a blink of an eye, he stepped through the bars in the railing and went through them face first. It was the most traumatic experience I’ve ever had in my life. I felt helpless. All you can do is try and stay calm, while you’re panicking.”
“He hit the bottom stair, which is about 15 feet below,” said Jennifer Hardenburg, Cainan’s mom. “I just heard my husband yelling for help and running down the stairs. I started running after him, and I saw him pick up Cainan who was screaming, crying, which in that moment I was thankful to hear. But AJ said he could feel the back of Cainan’s head growing in his hand.”
Someone nearby called 911.
“Paramedics told us he’d be going to Children’s Wisconsin via Flight for Life, and because of the winds, we weren’t able to be on the helicopter with him,” Jennifer said. “You panic because all you want to do is be with your baby during a tragic time. So, we got in our car and drove 45 minutes not knowing the injuries, or if our baby would make it. We were hysterically crying. It was a gut-wrenching experience.”
The fact that just three days later, Cainan is now healing at home, is their greatest joy. Doctors expect Cainan to make a full recovery.
“We’re counting our lucky stars, and we just hope that our story can reach out to schools and families to show that accidents can happen, and to please make sure you’re looking at any potential hazard areas,” Jennifer said.
The family also wants to thank the Sheboygan and Plymouth communities for the outpouring of support.
“People have been bringing us meals, groceries, and sending the nicest messages of support,” Jennifer said. “It’s not just people we know. It’s people all over. Friends created a GoFundMe account in our honor to help with medical bills. This is going to be a major financial hardship for us. Cainan still has a lot of follow-ups. But our hearts are just so blessed.”
“We’re extremely grateful,” AJ said.