A.C. Flora Senior Kaden Bagley Encourages Young Amputees to Get Back to Doing the Things They Love
A.C. Flora High School senior Kaden Bagley loves playing basketball and was a member of the school’s lacrosse team, but a tubing accident on Lake Murray in May 2021 changed his life.
Kaden lost his right leg and had to get a prosthetic and because of what he had heard from others, he was uneasy about getting one himself.
"I spoke with a bunch of other amputees who said they had problems with their prosthetics. They didn’t fit right. It would hurt and break on them," he said.
Kaden and his family traveled to Orlando, Florida for his prosthetic. Kaden was able to walk again within a day of receiving it, thanks to physical therapy.
"When I was in physical therapy, they exercised my left leg and my amputation limb. That was the reason I was able to walk again so quickly," he said.
For Kaden, the mental recovery process was just as important as the physical process. He says many amputees tend to close themselves away from the world and stop doing the things they love.
During his recovery, Kaden met a double amputee who wrestled and ran. Kaden says the man would win all of his wrestling matches and run faster than others, even though he was in running blades. He influenced Kaden to keep going.
"The man helped make my recovery so much faster. His motivation can push an amputee to excel. Without him, I would have been miserable," he said.
The Jordan Thomas Foundation helps cover the cost of prostheses for children and teens, and the organization helps families connect with others living with limb loss. When he was first introduced to the organization, Kaden was determined to go back to playing lacrosse. However, friends he met through the foundation convinced him to try a new sport: wheelchair basketball.
"At first, I didn’t want to do or even watch wheelchair basketball. But once I tried it out, it was the most fun I ever had," Kaden said.
Kaden plays for the Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets varsity team, which is associated with the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA). During his first year playing, his team won the 2022 NWBA National Championship in the varsity division.
"When I play wheelchair basketball, I feel like I’m on an equal playing field. No one on my team, or anyone I meet through the Jordan Thomas Foundation, feels limited by their amputation," he said.
In November, Kaden reached a major highlight in his wheelchair basketball career by signing to play for the University of Alabama’s men’s wheelchair basketball team.
"I am excited but nervous at the same time because I never thought I would get to a moment like this in my life. Being recruited by different D1 colleges has been a cool experience,” he said.
Kaden also helps other amputees connect with one another through his 5Kaden Run/Walk. The annual event gives back to the Jordan Thomas Foundation and brings together amputees from across the area. His first event last year raised $112,000. This year’s 5Kaden, which took place in April, raised more than $115,000.
"The Jordan Thomas Foundation has done so much for me and allowed me to do everything I wanted," Kaden said. “I want other kids who are amputees or received prostheses to know they’re not alone."
When kids and teens feel worried they may never get to walk or play their favorite sport again, Kaden tells them not to focus on the doors that have closed in front of them. Instead, they should focus on the doors that open behind them.
"Just because you have an amputation doesn’t mean everything is closed off," Kaden said. "Something else might open up that you may never consider."