Aubree Leone never looked at her brother Caleb differently after a debilitating injury during football left him in a coma for weeks. When Caleb awoke, the world was not the same. The injury damaged parts of his brain to the point he would never be the same person again. That didn’t stop his sister from
Aubree Leone never looked at her brother Caleb differently after a debilitating injury during football left him in a coma for weeks.
When Caleb awoke, the world was not the same. The injury damaged parts of his brain to the point he would never be the same person again. That didn’t stop his sister from joking with him in the hospital during Thanksgiving this past year.
As Aubree smiled and poked her brother with humorous tales, a small smile crept across Caleb’s face. It was the first time since his injury he reacted to somebody around him by mouthing words. The little acknowledgment of his sister’s humor returned a family to normal for that moment, and it meant the world to everybody in the room.
“Thanksgiving break, when she came down, she was joking and was trying to get him to voice,” Danielle said. “She was trying to get him to show Caleb again. Not just the Caleb we were getting used to. Thanksgiving was one of the best times.”
One look at either Caleb or Aubree and it is clear to see both of their parents, Jake and Danielle, have raised two very strong people.
“I just live my life like nothing ever happened, because Caleb is just the same as always,” Aubree said. “I don’t like to look at it any different. He’s just the strongest person I know.”
As the severity of the injury became clear the Leone family knew it was going to be a difficult time for every member of the family. Both Danielle and Jake spent days and nights at the hospital with Caleb, only leaving his side for a quick meal or 30-minute nap. Both parents dedicated themselves to being with Caleb as he tried to recover in the hospital. As they helped Caleb fight, Aubree, when not on the road visiting Caleb, stepped up to help at home.
“It was a lot on her plate,” Danielle said. “She was holding down the fort when we weren’t home. To be 17 and have that much responsibility — it’s not easy. She remains on the honor roll and she’s kept her head on at times better than we’ve been able to.”
Aubree has also been with Caleb on the weekends and holidays. When she walked into the room on Thanksgiving, she treated it like any other with her family. That simple act of trying to make the moment seem normal created a special one the family needed after months of being pulled apart.
“She came on the weekends to see him when we got to Hershey,” Danielle said. “She really dealt with it well. The way she and Caleb interact is amazing and brings things out in him we don’t get to see. It brings out the whole side of Caleb that you miss. She’s amazing with him.”
It’s easy to forget through it all that Aubree is still in high school trying to balance the situation with grades and work. Her classmates have supported her, and a few of the football players checked in regularly to see how their teammate has been doing.
Jersey Shore’s football team, which rallied around Caleb and his family after the injury, honored its teammate the night it defeated Selinsgrove for the District 4 Championship. As head coach Tom Gravish made his way down the line of players, giving each a gold medal as a display of their accomplishment, Aubree was given Caleb’s as the family looked on from her phone.
“Right as everything was going down my daughter facetimed us,” Danielle said. “It was pretty emotional for everyone. The fact she could be there and have his jersey and honor him was the greatest part of the event. They all really wanted to make sure No. 20 was recognized.”
Aubree felt the same way as she accepted the championship medal.
“It was just awesome I could do that for him,” Aubree said. “It was really overwhelming.”
Danielle, Jake, and Caleb got to see the entire medal ceremony on a cell phone held by one of Aubree’s friends. The moment was emotional, but a few weeks later when PA Football News named Caleb the 2018 Player of the Year it was another level of emotion for everyone.
“It was pretty awesome,” Danielle said. “It was the first time since Caleb’s accident that we all saw a genuine smile.”
The generosity displayed by former teammates and coaches weren’t just limited to the football team either. Jersey Shore and its surrounding communities have rallied in support of Caleb and his family.
On December 20th Caleb was cleared to come home, and once again people and organizations stepped up to help. Adam Alexander and the Andrew’s Special Kids Foundation donated a van for the family to help with transporting Caleb home. It also gave the family a way to get him to and from therapy.
“That’s huge,” Danielle said of the van being donated. “They came together with a van for us so we could bring Caleb home. It’s also how we get him to and from therapy every single day.”
The paperwork for the van wasn’t even finished by the time Caleb was ready to come home, but that didn’t matter as Alexander got it ready for the ride home.
“Adam Alexander was in touch with my husband before he came home, but they made sure we actually had it to bring him home,” Danielle said. “They made sure it was there to bring him home.”
Caleb will continue to be strong and improve, and the Jersey Shore area will continue to support his family.
“We pretty much experienced every emotion there is,” Danielle said. “We definitely had to learn how to come together as a unit, because we have some really challenging days. We really have to pull from one another’s strengths. There are some days where one of us is a little stronger than the other, but we are strong as a family.”
- May 22, 2019
- May 22, 2019