Wilson Overcomes Paralysis From Neck Down

Clint Wilson MarshallBy JACK BOGACZYK
Marshall University
HerdZone.com Columnist

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Eight years ago, Clint Wilson was paralyzed from the neck down in a wrestling accident.

He spent part of his eighth grade year in a wheelchair and was told he couldn’t play sports again.

Five years later, he threw a pitch 96 mph for 2011 champion Navarro College in the Junior College World Series and was drafted that June by the Milwaukee Brewers

Fast forward three years and a couple of more injuries, and he’s a mature, married man, soon to be 21, coming out of the Marshall University bullpen.

“There’s not a day I wake up that I don’t take advantage of just walking,” Wilson said.

“A lot of guys don’t realize it, but at the blink of an eye, it was taken from me … and it can be taken from anyone.”

The 6-foot, 225-pound right-hander never pitched competitively until his sophomore year at Vista Ridge High School in Cedar Park, Tex.

Even as a senior and No. 1 starter on the staff, he didn’t view himself as a college prospect.

Wilson was just happy to be playing anything.

Growing up as the oldest of three sons of Chris and Sandy Wilson in a suburb of Austin, Wilson’s favorite youth sports were football and wrestling. He also played baseball, and in middle school, participated in basketball and track and field.

Then, his world changed with one tumble.

“My brother (Colby) was big into wrestling,” Wilson said.

“My dad got us into that, and we’d done it for years. In the eighth grade, I was at a practice doing normal things, and I was helping a college guy prepare for a meet.

 “He was a little bigger than me, but I was the biggest one at the practice that evening, just doing normal drills, nothing crazy. He takes me down like he normally would, and I turn over in the defensive position like I always should.

“My forehead hits the mat, there’s a big pop. The guy kind of freaks out, and the next thing you know I’m lying on my back, just staring up, and I’m trying to get up, and I couldn’t.

“My dad was one of the coaches, and he comes over. He’s also an Austin firefighter — 20 years or so — so he has the whole medical emergency background.

“He immediately stabilized my neck once he realized the situation. The crazy thing is he was probably the calmest there. He signaled somebody to call the paramedics. They showed up, and they were going to do a spinal tap, which I guess they do on some paralyzed people. My dad told them, ‘No, take him straight to a hospital.’ ”

Wilson had no feeling in his body from the neck down.

“I went through a full-body MRI,” the Herd pitcher said.

“It took about 5 1/2 hours, the longest 5 1/2 hours of my life, because I couldn’t move. I’m crying. I can’t do anything keeping in mind I am only 13.

“We couldn’t get a diagnosis out of anybody in Austin, so dad does his research, and we end up going to Houston to a children’s hospital.

“I was paralyzed from the neck down for a little while. Then just the waist down. Everybody (at the hospital) was looking at film, trying to figure it out. Finally, I was diagnosed with Arnold-Chiari malformation (a downward displacement of the cerebellar tonsils through the opening at the base of the skull), a brain disease.

“I was born with it. The brain is supposed to sit on top of the spinal cord, and mine basically protruded on the inside, causing cranial pressure. I had spinal fluid Syrinx (a rare, fluid-filled cavity within the spinal cord). Once I was diagnosed with that, they later told us if we had done the spinal tap, it could have permanently paralyzed me or killed me.”

Comebacker To Mound
Wilson underwent surgery in April of 2006 during the eighth grade.

A three-inch vertical scar running down the middle of the back of his head, toward his spine, is evident even when he wears his baseball cap.

“They drained spinal fluid, and took a decent amount of skull out to allow more movement and relieve pressure,” Wilson said.

“They told me when I had surgery I’d be knocked out for a couple of days. So I had planned on being in the hospital 7-10 days.

“I woke up not even an hour after surgery, sat up and started pulling tubes out of my mouth. I was ready to go, was alert, awake and ended up getting cleared in 24 hours to go home.

“I started getting feeling back in my feet. I had to relearn to walk. I started in a wheelchair and went to a walker after that.

To read more about Clint Wilson’s amazing comeback from paralysis, purchase the April 4, 2014 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.