Staff Photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press Tim and Tiffany Brown hold their 2-year-old son, Caleb, during a news conference at the Spring Creek Road Baptist Church in East Ridge on Wednesday. The infant was seriously injured by a falling rock at Fall Creek Falls State Park and treated at Erlanger hospital. The parents held the news conference to update his status after his release from an Atlanta hospital.
A lot has happened to 2-year-old Caleb Brown in the two months since he was struck in the head by a rock at Fall Creek Falls and lost the ability to walk and talk.
But now he's going home to the Nashville area, well on the road to recovery, his family's own Christmas "miracle."
Caleb's parents, Tim and Tiffany Brown, haven't been home since Oct. 16 when the incident occurred. Family members in Nashville have been taking care of their other two children while the Browns stayed near Caleb's side, first at T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital in Chattanooga, then the Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta.
"It's been hard," Tim Brown said Wednesday, choking back emotion during a news conference at Spring Creek Road Baptist Church in East Ridge. "We've been through a lot these last few months."
On Oct. 16, the Browns were camping at Fall Creek Falls. As the family was hiking around the base of the falls, a basketball-sized rock fell from the cliff above and grazed Caleb's head.
Authorities have been unable to determine whether two teens seen in the area about that time may have contributed to the incident or whether the rock simply fell.
From the falls, Caleb was airlifted to T.C. Thompson, where doctors worked to keep him alive. The Browns said part of doctors' initial challenge was to keep Caleb's brain from swelling and several of his organs from failing.
He spent weeks in intensive care at T.C. Thompson. Before going to Scottish Rite in mid-November, Caleb couldn't walk or talk as he could before his injury, Brown said.
However, once in the Atlanta hospital, Caleb began responding to physical therapy almost immediately. Now, the toddler is talking, playing and doing what young children do.
"Caleb has met and exceeded the goals set at Scottish Rite," Brown said.
Caleb was recently released from Scottish Rite and the family stopped in Chattanooga on their way to Nashville.
Brown said the family planned to stop by T.C. Thompson later Wednesday to thank doctors and nurses and allow them to see the youngster whose life they had saved.
"After we meet with doctors, we're going home," Brown said.
The Browns said they couldn't have made it through the past two months without the "amazing" support they had received from the public, especially in Chattanooga.
Jason McKay, of Ringgold, Ga., met the Browns while camping at Fall Creek Falls before the accident and accompanied the Browns on Wednesday. He said he has been with the couple throughout their ordeal with Caleb.
"We're planning our next camping trip," McKay said. "We've become lifelong friends."
Brown said the family probably wouldn't be going back to Fall Creek Falls anytime soon.
Rob Davis drove from Athens, Tenn., to see the Brown family on Wednesday. Davis said he has been keeping track of Caleb's story and visited the Browns while they were at T.C. Thompson.
Caleb has "touched his heart," Davis said.
ON THE WEB
"This has changed me," he said. "I look at life and family differently now. I look at everything differently now."
Davis said he checks a website with updates on Caleb, www.helpcaleb.com, every day after work to see what is new.
"Christmas is the season for miracles," Davis said. "This [Caleb's recovery] is truly a miracle."
Brown asked everyone to continue praying for Caleb and said they'll speak with doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center today about continuing his physical therapy.
At the end of the news conference, Caleb, too, had something to say.
"Bye bye," he called, throwing his hand up.