In eighth grade, Noah Sarkin, a senior at the University of Kansas, had an accident that almost took his life. After a typical fall school day, his mom drove him 25 minutes to evening club soccer practice in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
I was on the field for 15 minutes. The grass had just been cut, and the leaves were falling. You could smell fall. I was warmed up and getting into the first drills of practice. We were working on crossing the ball into the box and finishing it with a header.
I was first in line.
Coach was trying to explain the drill, but I was messing around with my friends and not listening. My teammate had sent in a cross, and I had no idea coach and I were about to go for the same ball. Then everything went black for the next 48 hours, but here’s the story as I heard it:
Coach and I collided. His forehead shattered the right side of my skull, broke my jaw and tore an artery in my brain. I passed out instantly.
I was immediately rushed to the nearby hospital. Doctors ran some tests and knew I needed craniotomy surgery to fix the torn artery, but the nearest hospital that could perform it was in Little Rock, which is just over a three-hour drive. “He is losing too much blood for that long of a car ride,” my mom remembers a nurse saying.
They needed to Flight for Life me, but couldn’t because of a bad storm. They urgently put me in an ambulance and made a three-hour drive in a short hour and 20 minutes.
I immediately went into a two-hour surgery. I found out later that while they had me under anesthesia, I flatlined for 15 to 20 seconds. They brought me back and successfully stopped the bleeding while reconstructing the right side of my skull with titanium plates and screws.
After the surgery was over, I was in and out of consciousness for the next 24 hours. The only thing I remember while lying in the hospital was 10 seconds of darkness with different flashing lights repeating over and over until it went black again.
A day went by, and I finally woke up and saw my parents. My mom looked tired, but I have never seen a smile so big.
I was in the hospital for the next two weeks. When I finally got to go home, I had half of my head shaved and was always wearing a stocking cap to hide it.
Medical bills for a surgery of this magnitude are big, and not all families can pay these bills, so my dad and I started a foundation called “The English Channel Challenge for Childrens” and have been doing it since 2013.
We used my dad's love for swimming as a means for raising money. He has swam the English Channel, from Capri to Naples, as well as for 24 hours straight at the local athletic club in Fayetteville.
The foundation raises awareness toward families who struggle with medical bills and are in debt. Dad and I have raised over $400,000 in total for families in need.