On July 22, Canton resident Nathan Waddle, 20, suffered a traumatic brain injury while competing in a mixed martial arts competition at Gwinnett Center. At press time, he was in the intensive care unit at Gwinnett Medical Center and facing an uncertain future.
“Nathan understands challenges well,” said Susan Tuggle, his aunt and guardian. “The first five years of Nathan’s life, he was raised by his single father, Jeremy, who was just a kid himself. When Nathan was 5 years old, his dad never returned home from work when the motorcycle he was driving was struck by a drunk driver. My parents, along with my husband and I, immediately decided that we would raise Nate together and share custody of him. We had two children of our own and my oldest daughter and Nathan are just three weeks apart in age.
“Nathan graduated from King’s Academy in 2015 and currently attends Chattahoochee Technical College in preparation to transfer to KSU to pursue a degree in nursing. He works as a personal trainer at the Canton YMCA and also volunteers for Warriors of Wonder camp for disabled children. Nathan has a joyful spirit and kind heart for others,” Susan said.
Since he was a child, Nate always has loved martial arts, a love that he and his dad shared. “His daddy was a black belt in karate and Nate started karate at a very young age. He has all of his belts,” Susan said.
Over the past year, Nathan began exploring the competitive world of martial arts and Muay Thai kickboxing. He enjoyed its mental and physical discipline and began training. On July 22, well-trained and equipped with all of his safety gear, Nathan entered the ring to compete.
“I could not watch, so I stayed home, but my husband updated me throughout the night,” Susan said. “He had made it to the championship round and was so excited. When I stopped receiving updates, I became very concerned.”
Toward the end of the championship round, Nathan received a kick to the head that landed beneath his helmet. He immediately went down and was unconscious. Nathan was transported to Gwinnett Medical Center, where they performed emergency surgery to remove part of his skull. At press time, Nathan remained in a coma. He has experienced some progress as well as setbacks. He had three mini strokes from the brain injury.
“Doctors have said he is out of the woods, but it isn’t until he fully wakes up that we will understand the extent of his injuries and what will be required going forward,” Susan said.
Meanwhile, his grandparents and aunt and uncle have not left his side. They are prayerfully determined to save Nathan. These two sweet families have spent their lives selflessly and successfully raising Nathan to be a fine young man and are facing unexpected changes and unknowns. Nathan likely will remain in ICU up to eight weeks, and the family members drive to Lawrenceville daily to be beside him, praying for a day of progress.
It will be awhile before Nathan leaves the hospital and, when he finally does, he will require extensive physical and cognitive therapies. Everyday Angels asks for your prayers, support and encouragement for Nathan and his extended family. We look forward to sharing future updates on Nathan and pray that they will reveal a healthy, happy and whole young man.