CLEVELAND – When James Gridiron arrived at Metro Health Medical Center that day, he didn’t know what to expect.
Then, a social worker near the ER told him his son had fallen “at least 65 feet” off a cliff.
“It overwhelmed me,” he says quietly, “a lot.”
Even now, three years later, James has to pause during an interview when recalling that summer day when he almost lost not one, but two sons. And it is hard to believe how far they have come in that time.
Dorian, who is now 19, and his brother, Adrian, who is 26, both fell down the side of a steep cliff and onto muddy ground next to the Grand River.
It’s a miracle that Adrian wasn’t hurt that badly.
It’s a second miracle that Dorian survived at all. And he did so first with the help of his brother, and then with the expertise of a trauma team at Metro.
The brothers loved to kayak along the river, and they sometimes stopped to climb. But this time, when they got to the top, Adrian slipped.
“The ground gave way,” he says, “and I probably fell about ten feet, and I was hanging onto a tree.”
Dorian ignored his brother’s warning to stay back, and tried to reach for him. Then, in an instant, Adrian fell, hitting the ground below.
“I turned to see how I could get back up to the top,” Adrian says, “and I saw my brother face down in the water.”
Dorian had fell right after Adrian. He was unconscious. And it look to Adrian like his brother was having a seizure.
“I was panicked a little at first,” Adrian says.
James had both his boys on a wrestling mat by the time they were each four years-old. And he says, when Adrian looked at his brother lying in the water convulsing, he relied on instincts, and on skills he had learned over the years wrestling.
“He was always good when it came time for that pressure on the mat,” James says, “and he seemed to regroup and get it together.”
And that’s exactly what Adrian did that day. He turned Dorian over, got him out of the water, and dragged him to safety. But without his cellphone, and worried that it could get dark, he made the difficult to decision to leave his brother to look for help.
He made it to a road, flagged down a car, and after a 911 call, Dorian was life-flighted to Metro.
“My spleen had ruptured,” he says, “and the right side of my brain was bleeding, and I had a compound break of my wrist.”
Trauma surgeon Dr. John Como oversaw Dorian’s care, and credits Adrian with giving his brother a better chance.
“Certainly, if he had not been taken out of the water, he could have not gotten oxygen for awhile,” Dr. Como says, “and he would have had a worse brain injury.”
Doctors were able to use a catheter to insert special coils to help control the bleeding in Dorian’s spleen.
Fortunately, the bleeding in his brain was very small.
“I think they saved my life,” Dorian says, “they did a phenomenal job putting be back together, and making sure I was okay.”
He was okay, but not cleared for athletics. A year of physical therapy led to Dorian getting the chance to swim competitively.
Still, he longed to get back to the sport he grew up loving – wrestling.
“I thought if he wasn’t able to do sports,” his father says, “he wouldn’t be the same kid.”
Through hard work, and a lot of help from a lot of people, Dorian was able to return to wrestling.
This year, he won a sectional event for Lake Catholic as a senior, and later qualified for the state tournament.
“That’s the whole goal of what we do,” Dr. Como says, “is getting people back where they were before. So I think it’s a wonderful thing.”
So does Dorian, and his family. And for Dorian, the events have been life-changing – and not just physically.
“It makes me look at life differently,” he says, “and not take it for granted.”
“Nowadays,” he continues, “a lot of people take life for granted and they are like, ‘oh, my life is not as good as other people’s lives.’ I almost died, and coming back, I didn’t realize how much I had, and the love I was getting from everybody until that happened. It’s amazing.”
Dorian hopes to wrestle for Cleveland State in the fall.
His future, once in doubt, looks very bright again.