After transplant, county investigator reports ‘blessed’ to be back
By Michael Wetzel
For the Enquirer
Morgan County Sheriff’s investigator Caleb Brooks, now back at work, says he’s blessed to be alive.
After being attacked by a bull Aug. 16, 2020, on his Morgan County family farm, the 26-year-old underwent a small intestine transplant in Cleveland, Ohio, Dec. 4.
Sheriff Ron Puckett said Brooks’ return Monday to working full time is nothing short of a miracle.
“Caleb is a fighter,” Puckett said. “His determination, plus the prayers and support from our community, helped him get back to this point and back to serving our citizens.”
Brooks was quick to agree with his boss.
“I’m extremely blessed, and I would not have been able to do it without God, my family and community support,” Brooks said.
Brooks said Aug. 16 started out as a normal day. On that Sunday afternoon, he and his wife Madeline were feeding hay to their 2-year-old Black Angus bull named Cash, which they had gotten when it was 2 days old.
He said Cash, who had no horns, was on the opposite side of the hay bale about 5 feet away, and “he just flipped out and put his head to my stomach,” said Brooks. “I didn’t have time to react.”
The bull lifted him in the air “once or twice … I was back-pedaling trying to get away from him. He slammed me into a tree about 40 yards from the hay bale,” he said.
Brooks said the bull then ran from him.
“I climbed over the gate to get out of the pasture, and my wife called 911,” Brooks said. “I was lying down. I knew I was hurt but didn’t know how bad.”
Physicians at Huntsville Hospital informed Brooks they would perform emergency surgery to alleviate internal bleeding and remove his small intestine. Doctors reached out to the Cleveland Clinic, which put Brooks on a list for a rare transplant of a small intestine.
After 10 days in Huntsville Hospital, he was flown to Cleveland, where doctors ran tests and checked him for another week.
He returned to work part time for several weeks and was called back to Cleveland Nov. 16. He and his family were staying with friends outside of Cleveland when, Dec. 3, he received a call to come to the clinic for surgery.
“I arrived at the hospital at about 7:30 p.m., and they began the transplant about 4 a.m.,” he said. It took 10 hours, and he remained in the hospital 11 days after surgery.
“I remained in Cleveland for three more weeks so doctors could run tests checking for rejection (of the intestine),” he said.
COVID-19 safety protocols kept family and friends from visiting him in his hospital room, but he said it wasn’t all dreary. In early November, his wife gave birth to their second son. They have a 4-year-old boy, too. Brooks said he logged about 25 hours on FaceTime talking with his family.
“Even though they couldn’t visit in person, seeing them virtually always brightened my day,” he said.
But he said nothing could beat the feeling of leaving the hospital Jan. 5 and returning home.
“Seeing my family and my mother come pick me up at the hospital was the brightest moment of the whole time. Just getting back to Alabama was awesome,” he said. “My wife never left my side. She played a huge role in getting me through this ordeal. She kept my faith strong.”
He said he’s not on any special diet and is “improving every day.”
Brooks thanked supporters who cheered and prayed for him on social media pages. An online fundraising account collected more than $35,000 to help offset the family’s expenses. “There have been quite a few out-of-state donors who reached out to help,” Brooks said.
Puckett said his department is thrilled to have Brooks back full time.
“After all he’s been through, I’m grateful to see Caleb back in the office,” Puckett said. “His personality has been missed. Additionally, 2020 had a substantial increase in the caseload for our investigators. Having Caleb’s abilities back on the job will help us meet that ever-growing demand.”
Though he spent ample time in Ohio the past few months, Brooks said he hasn’t been converted into an Ohio State football fan. Alabama defeated Ohio State in the national championship game this past Monday.
“I was so glad to be home to see Alabama win,” he said.