My name is Blake Taylor Browning, born on September 29, 1991 in the city of Anaheim, California. I was born an athlete. At the age of two I loved climbing on things, playing baseball, and riding my bike. At the age of 4 ½ baseball became my passion and at age 6 I played football. I was positioned at pitcher and shortstop in baseball and in football, quarterback. At the age of 9 I wanted real competition so I joined a travel ball team called the La Mirada Barracuda’s. We had a solid group until we were 13 and we qualified for the Triple Crown World Series in Steam Boat Springs, Colorado. Going into the tournament we were the underdogs and nobody knew who we were. Well after going 1-2 in pool play, we destroyed every team we played and came out World Series Champs.
I attended elementary and junior high at Beatitudes of Our Lord in La Mirada, Ca. Because of my ability to excel in academics as well as baseball I decided to apply to St. John Bosco High School. Bosco is a very prestigious Catholic Private High School in Bellflower, California. There were many opportunities to be scouted by a college at St. John Bosco due to their Division I ranking so I applied and was accepted as a freshman in 2005.
As a 14 year old freshman I was pulled up to Varsity, I was the only freshman on the Varsity team. This leap gave me the confidence to pursue a potential baseball career and I was already being scouted by several colleges in and out of State. I loved everything about baseball and played with several travel ball teams including the Redwings, Barracudas, The Hitting Zone and SGV Arsenal.
Letter From My Mom
August 18th 2007 was the day that changed everything for Blake. I, Michelle, dropped him off at practice and was going to come back and meet his dad to watch his first scrimmage in pads for football. I was on my way to a friends house, picking up our god daughter when I was told Russell was trying to reach me. I called him on his cell; no answer. Before I even had too much time to think about it Russell had called again. I picked up the phone and it was the most devastating news a mother never should have to hear. My husband said, “Honey you need to come to long beach memorial, Blake is hurt and cannot feel his legs.” I dropped the phone and felt like I was going to pass out, I could barely breathe. All I could think about was my baby, and that I wasn’t there when he got hurt. I knew I had to get there fast. Edna drove me to the hospital, that drive felt like eternity. I remember going into the ER bending over because I couldn’t breathe.
The staff took us back right away and I saw my husband and my oldest son sobbing hysterically. I wanted to see Blake but Russ said we had to wait. The nurse called us in and the doctor came over and explained that, Blake had a broken neck and a spinal cord injury. He also said that, Blake would never walk again. This was the most horrible day of our lives. I remember my son Anthony saying “he’s supposed to play baseball mom, but he’s supposed to play baseball.” Our hearts were broken! He was taken up to ICU where they told us that his spinal cord was probably 3 quarters severed and that he would only be able to maneuver a wheelchair with his mouth like Christopher Reeves. We were living a nightmare. At this point Blake was scared and in complete shock. We all were. We didn’t know what was to come next. The doctors did surgery on the 3rd day after his injury to fuse the C4-C6 vertebrae. All of our family and friends filled the waiting room praying for Blake and waited anxiously for any news on his surgery. The doctor told us the first good news we had heard in 3 days. Blake’s surgery was a success and his spinal cord was not severed like they thought but it was still severely bruised.
We spent the next two months in Pediatric Intensive Care by Blake’s bedside; he was never left alone, not one day. He suffered from pneumonia and his left lung collapsed twice. Because of this they had to insert a life support tube down his throat and keep him completely sedated. After realizing that it was too hard for him to non-verbally communicate the doctors suggested a tracheotomy. Blake would have to undergo one more surgery. Each and every day it was a new struggle and heartache. Blake lost 36 pounds because he was only being fed by a feeding tube. Once Blake was able to gain some strength we started to sit him up. Little by little Blake started to gain back more movement and he amazed us every single day..doing things no one thought he would be able to do. Blake’s goal was to push his own wheel chair, which the doctors said he would never do. He amazed the staff the day he pushed himself down the ICU corridor. He amazed us all! The nurses were in tears. I think this was when we all first realized Blake was going to overcome this tragedy and prove the medical world wrong.
In mid October 2007 he was moved to a live in rehabilitation center called Casa Colina in Pomona. Blake did physical therapy and occupational therapy twice a day. His respiratory nurses pushed him hard to gain the strength needed in his lungs to breathe on his own again. Within two weeks Blake was off the breathing machine and breathing great on his own. Once again the doctors said he would be on the breathing machine for a year. He also began his bowel movement program here every morning. Blake was a fighter and he still continues to be.
In December 2007 Blake came home for the first time in 4 months. 4 months prior Blake was a very independent young man. He soon realized how dependent on his family he would have to be to do everything for him. I’d get him up at 5:30 am every morning to do his bowel program, shower, and dress him for school. Blake is able to brush his teeth, feed himself and put his shirt on. He was on a strict schedule of medications. Blake is so strong and maintains an independent personality so he wants to do everything on his own that he can. He pushes himself around in his manual wheel chair. Blake has to be transferred into his wheel chair, shower chair and bed every day. Before bed we stretch him and position his body in a way so he will not get pressure sores. We have to monitor Blake’s health daily.
Blake’s life is dedicated to his recovery. He attended rehab at Project Walk in Carlsbad. This was supposed to be the time where he gets picked up by a college to be the best baseball player they have ever seen. Now he had to sit back and watch his friends get scholarships for baseball and wonder if he didn’t get hurt where he would be???
In May 2009, Blake graduated from St. John Bosco. During the ceremony, Blake was given a standing ovation and there wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium. Blake attended Cerritos Community College and transferred to Arizona State University to finish his degree.