Calvin Martin has competed in a little bit of everything for the Imbler Panthers track and field team during his prep career.
The senior’s primary events are the javelin, the 4x100 and 4x400 relays and the 800. He took seventh in the 800 a year ago at state.
Off the track, he’s surprised himself with a sharp memory, saying he’s recently been able to memorize large passages of the Bible.
He’s involved in the lives of people around him, be it helping coach a junior high basketball team, or, as his mother Kelly Martin put it, using sports as a way to minister to others.
And he’s engaged to be married this summer.
All are accomplishments he attributes to the grace of God, and all are feats that, about 3-1/2 years ago, would have been tough — if not impossible — to imagine after he suffered a brain hemorrhage during his freshman year of high school. It was an event that took away many of the activities he had participated in for years but opened up opportunities he otherwise may not have experienced.
“We’re very, very happy and thankful that he is who he is today, and that he can do the things he does today,” his mother said.
Looking back on the fateful day
Calvin Martin said he recalls most of the details of the day the brain hemorrhage happened — Oct. 14, 2015.
“I remember going to (football) practice. I remember having a headache in the locker room,” he said, adding he didn’t think much of the headache, attributing it likely to being dehydrated and then taking some ibuprofen. “I remember drills, warm-ups. I remember the drill we were doing when it happened. About where (my memory) stopped was when I took my helmet off.”
According to an October 2015 Observer article, Martin passed out on the sidelines and after not responding was airlifted to Walla Walla, Washington, for emergency surgery to remove a piece of his skull and a clot from his brain. He was then transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and later to Seattle Children’s Hospital for the early stages of his recovery.
His memory of the events following when he passed out is, as he put it, “wishy-washy,” with most of the details passed on to him by family.
“My dad (Mike Martin) told me when I woke up in the (Walla Walla) hospital, they actually had to put something on me to hold me to the bed,” he said. “When I woke up I freaked out. I was all over the place. I was struggling to get out. I woke up and didn’t know where I was or anything. Of course, I have no conscious memory of this.”
He does have some memories of events during that time that were more pleasant, including an ambulance ride where he shared laughs with the medical team in the back, and a visit from a Seattle superstar.
“(Seattle Seahawks quarterback) Russell Wilson visited me. That was pretty cool,” Calvin said. “I remember he came up behind me. He came up while I was doing therapy. He put his hand on my shoulder. I got up and hugged him. It was a cool experience.”
He instantly became a fan, adding he made sure to get a Wilson jersey, which he still has.
His mom said the doctor told them after the surgery Calvin was fortunate, but that there could be some major complications from the hemorrhage. At times, Kelly admitted the family wondered if her son would lead a normal life again.
“There were times we had a question in our hearts about that, but we’ve always looked at it like what the doctor said in the beginning, ‘Your son is extremely lucky to be alive,’” she said. “Even when he woke up, they prepared us that he may not have the use of all his extremities.”
The fears of that were assuaged, though, through a humorous moment after he awakened from the
“We pinched his toes, and asked if he could feel it. He asked, ‘Why are you pinching my toes?’” Kelly said.
Calvin returned home in November 2015. The early stages of recovery were a challenge, and he was limited in much of what he could do. Kelly said the amount of tasks the brain does are taken for granted, and that was seen as Calvin worked his way back from the brain injury.
“You don’t realize how many things your brain is working on,” she said. “When you’re sleeping, it’s still working. Even watching TV or reading a book is a challenge to someone whose brain is bruised.”
Kelly said if Calvin did too much he could get nauseous and throw up — and “too much,” in the early stages, was as simple as getting up too fast from a chair or natural functions like sneezing. Tasks had to be slowly reintroduced.
“We had to learn to set limits for him on his recovery and then gradually allow him to continue on with normal life,” she said.
Academics, for example, when they were eventually worked back into his schedule, were given to him in small doses. Calvin, who is home-schooled, spent at first five to 10 minutes per subject before taking a rest and moving to another subject. He then built that up to 15 minutes per subject then 20, and so on.
“His day was really long, but he was recovering at the same time,” Kelly said, adding that Calvin had to study into the summer that year and next as he worked to catch up.
While there were several additional struggles along the road back to where he is now, the family has also seen many positives and changes as his recovery progressed, and Kelly said Calvin has transitioned smoothly into understanding many of the facets of being a young adult.
“He’s moved right into that arena of young adult life. It was a lot smoother than we anticipated,” she said. “We were thankful for that. He didn’t have a lot of struggles in that area.”
Calvin has seen positives as well.
“Sometimes I think my memory isn’t that great, but I proved myself wrong on that,” he said. “There was a time when we were trying to memorize a whole book of the Bible, and I told myself I couldn’t do it, and God told me otherwise. He said, ‘You can if you rely on me.’”
He memorized each of the first three chapters, and part of the fourth, of the book of James during that challenge.
Calvin said some of his perspectives have changed as well, and his faith has grown. He said he believed in God prior to the hemorrhage, but that belief has only gotten stronger.
“I have a great God. He can pull you through anything,” Calvin said. “Life’s not easy. It sucks a lot of times, but I say always look toward him (and) look at all the blessings throughout your life. A lot of times we can get down and focus on the negative situations. A lot of people would think I would do that. God’s put (it) as part of my life to try and have joy through everything. I’m blessed to be here. I’m blessed to be able to run still and do all the things I do.”
Kelly added that part of Calvin’s perspective includes an empathetic perception, which he had previously, but that he had to relearn after the injury. “He recognizes things in people that a lot of people don’t. He’ll notice little things about people who sacrifice,” she said.
Calvin also attributes the injury — and God working through it — to opening his eyes to his fiancee, Maddie Seggerman, whom he will marry in July.
“My thought process on that is if I hadn’t had the brain problem, the surgeries and whatnot, that my life would have been more wrapped around myself,” he said, adding that he’s more able now to realize life is about more than just himself.
One way he has been others-focused is by helping Barry Bowers, husband of IHS track coach Heidi Bowers, as an assistant coach on the junior high basketball team last season, which his mom said helped teach him patience and was “a real learning instrument.”
Back on the track
In early 2016 — following Calvin’s recovery from an additional surgery to put the piece of his skull back in place, further consultation and an OK from his parents — he was released to compete in certain high school sports. Contact sports including football, basketball and baseball were, and always will be, off the list, though he admits he does at times play a pick-up game of hoops. Snowboarding is also a sport he’s no longer able to do.
Track, though, in which he’s competed since middle school, was still an option.
Calvin admits that, especially early, he struggled with the “Why?” question that anyone would likely ask after a major health scare, but he said that since then he has accepted what he still has.
“I made peace realizing God has still given me the ability to do track, and I’m thankful for that. Good things still come out of that.”
Getting back into the groove with track took time as he recovered. According to the Imbler track record on track and field database www.athletic.net, Calvin competed in most of Imbler’s meets during that freshman year, but he had challenges.
“I tried to take it easy at first. I only ran (in the 1,500) in three track meets, but then I was having horrible migraines,” he said. “That was really hard for me. I had to take a step back and realize I wasn’t ready for everything.”
Kelly added the time it took for him to get back into being physically active was the main challenge for her son.
“As far as physical activity, that’s what bothered him the most. He’s been physical since the day he could walk,” she said.
He began to see, however, the hand of the divine at work in the midst of the struggle.
“God really humbled me through that season,” he said. “I had to sit back and encourage everyone else. (The message from God was) ‘You need to encourage other people to compete better.’”
Even when he couldn’t compete, he attended the meets and sought to be an encouragement to his teammates. While he couldn’t rejoin the football team, he carried that attitude back onto the field in the fall as he continued to improve.
“My sophomore year I helped out with football. I was there the whole season,” he said. “That was kind of fun, but I struggled with migraines during those football games because I would yell so much. That was a challenge. After that I haven’t been part of any other sport than track.”
He has gradually improved on the track and has become one of the key pieces of the Imbler track team.
“Calvin has been a great leader for our team,” Heidi Bowers said. “He is a hardworking young man that makes his teammates better.”
At last week’s Baker Invitational, Calvin set either a season best or personal best in three events, including a PR of 146 feet even in the javelin, which he says may be the event in which he has the best chance of making it to next week’s state track meet.
He entered today’s 1A Special District 4 meet in Baker City seeded sixth in the district in the 800 — the event in which he placed seventh at state a year ago — and third in the javelin. The top two finishers from each district are guaranteed a spot at state, but three wildcards will also be given out to the next top three performances across the state.
“The district is a lot harder this year. A lot more competitors. A lot faster. But I’m going to go out and compete, do my best, and try and leave it all out on the line. If I go, I go,” he said.
Regardless of what happens in Baker, the fact he is on the track and living a full life is a testament, he said, of God’s grace.
“When I tell people my story and what has happened, I tell them I’m thankful for my accident,” Calvin said. “I realize if I had it my way from the beginning, if this hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I wouldn’t be in this position. I wouldn’t be in love with this awesome woman. I had to take a step back, and my life became not just about me. It became better. I realized God is going to use me in different ways. Some of the ways were telling my story. I was able to (recover) because God was with me the whole time.”