Taylor Lumpkin is back to doing what he loves — playing baseball — and he is doing it at full-strength.
The Kennesaw Mountain junior third baseman and pitcher has maintained a .346 average in helping lead the Mustangs back to the Class AAAAAAA state tournament, beginning today when they host Lassiter in the first round.
However, thirteen months ago, Lumpkin was lying in the intensive care unit at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, hooked up to a ventilator as well as a chest tube, NG tube and wound vacuum. His pelvis was crushed and an eyelid was split in two.
Lumpkin also had to undergo emergency stomach surgery and have his appendix taken out.
All of this was the result of a near-fatal car crash.
Lumpkin was on the way home from working out at a friend’s baseball facility when the accident occurred. He was the front-seat passenger and said he does not remember any details of the collision. What he can remember are flashes during the immediate aftermath.
“I remember being in an ambulance, and I asked what happened, and they told me that I was in a car accident and that they were taking me to Kennestone,” Lumpkin said. “I remember little bits of me being in the hospital and people coming to see it and doctors telling me I just had surgery on my stomach.”
Kennesaw Mountain coach George Hansen said his reaction upon hearing news of the crash was that of “shock and disbelief,” but it wasn’t until he visited Lumpkin for the first time that Hansen understood the severity of the crash and his player’s injuries.
“You hear of kids being in fender-benders, and that kind of thing, all the time,” Hansen said. “(Seeing him) was very real and very sobering. We were concerned, but it was then that we saw how close the margin was. We knew from the injuries that it was going to be a long haul if he was going to get back to where he wanted to be.”
Hansen said teammates and coaches would take turns every day visiting Lumpkin in smaller groups.
“Hearing the news really struck us to the core as a team,” teammate Ryland Goede said. “We were really worried for the first few days, but seeing that he was going to be OK was really exciting for us.”
Lumpkin could not talk during the week he was in the ICU, nor could he eat or drink. He communicated to family and friends through hand signals — a popular one being that he was thirsty. He also used a pen and tablet.
Although it was not a necessity at the time, Lumpkin opted to undergo surgery to repair his crushed pelvis, where he now has a metal plate and eight screws. He also underwent surgery to repair his eyelid.
“It was my choice if I wanted to have surgery on my pelvis, and I wanted to because I didn’t want to have any problems in the future,” Lumpkin said. “They had that surgery a week after (arriving to the hospital).”
While Lumpkin was able to stand up with help, he could only stay upright for 30 seconds.
Lumpkin was released from the hospital after two weeks, but physical therapy at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Town Center clinic still awaited him. When Lumpkin tried to take his first steps, he said his legs felt “like jelly.”
Therapy, which lasted roughly three months, started with Lumpkin sitting down and moving his legs vertically and horizontally while using resistance bands. Other exercises included leg lifts and single squats using his stronger leg.
Slowly but surely, Lumpkin got strong enough to walk short distances. He eventually started getting around with a walker before graduating to crutches.
“During this whole time, never once did he feel sorry for himself,” said his mother, Tracy Singleton-Lumpkin. “Yeah, he told me how bad this sucked, and he wished it wouldn’t have happened, but it did, and now he had to get through it. I believe his passion for baseball and sheer determination got him to where he is today.”
Singleton-Lumpkin, who is a nurse at the Emory Aesthetic Center in Atlanta, took leave for three months, and she and immediate family were there full-time to help bring her son back to health.
It also helped Lumpkin to see friends, teammates and coaches on a daily basis.
“I had people come in every single day,” he said. “There were always people there. They wanted me to get better, and they told me that, but it was good just to see people.”
If there was one thing that gave coaches and teammates the chills, it was seeing Lumpkin healthy enough to wheel himself into the dugout and watch the final games of Kennesaw Mountain’s 2017 season.
“I think the turning point of this whole thing was at the end of last season,” Hansen said. “That gave us the feeling that everything would be OK.”
During physical therapy, teachers visited Lumpkin’s home three days a week to catch him up on his schoolwork, and he finished his sophomore year with As and Bs.
Once summer started, Lumpkin was practicing with his travel team on a limited basis, but by the fall, he was cleared to play. Soon after, he picked up where he left off and was back to 100 percent by the time the 2018 season got underway.
Among Lumpkin’s highlights from the plate this season was getting the game-winning hit in a 4-3 extra-inning win over Marietta. He was also 2-for-3 with a double in a 6-0 shutout over McEachern.
On the mound, Lumpkin’s best performance was throwing nine strikeouts over six innings in a 3-2 win over North Paulding.
“He is the kind of kid that doesn’t want attention brought to him whatsoever. He just wants to go back to being a kid again,” Hansen said. “He’s our starting third baseman. What more do you want? It’s amazing that he has been able to do what he wants to do.”