ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Connor Gooding had just left his parent’s house on his friend’s golf cart. He and his buddies were on their way to another house in their St. Johns county sub-division to watch a movie for the night. It was October 9th, 2021.
Ten minutes after leaving, his parents receive a disturbing phone call.
“We had a call from one of Connor’s friends who says, ‘Connor fell and he is not OK,’” explains Isaac Gooding, Connor’s father.
Gooding and his wife rushed down the road and found their son in the middle of the street.
“There’s blood coming out of his ear. He’s disoriented, not making a lot of sense,” his dad described.
His father, who is a physician, knew his son’s injury was severe. The blood coming out of his ear signaled a fractured skull.
Connor had stepped off the golf cart while it was still moving. He fell and hit the left side of his head on the asphalt.
Connor’s mother was frantic. Her 15-year-old was airlifted to Wolfson Children’s hospital. Kimberly Gooding tears up just remembering what happened next.
“After they had done the CT scan on him, he was puking blood, and they’re like, ‘Stay with us, Connor. Stay with us, Connor,’ and I was freaking out,” said Kimberly. “I just didn’t think he was going to make it, and then he did and it was like, was he gonna be Connor?”
Connor Gooding had an epidural hematoma. He was bleeding behind his skull causing pressure on his brain. It is an injury that can cause death and brain damage.
The teen was rushed into emergency surgery. Doctors performed a craniotomy to relieve pressure on his brain.
“We didn’t know for a while,” explained Connor’s mom about waiting for hours to learn if their son would survive and if he would have any brain damage.
Time had worked in Connor’s favor. A mother inside one of the homes near where the accident happened immediately called 911. The Goodings say that made all the difference. Connor spent three days in ICU and two more in the hospital. He has three small steel plates in his skull but sustained no permanent damage.
Connor is disappointed to miss his entire lacrosse season and is unable to exercise for three months. He missed three weeks of school and still has occasional headaches.
“He’s one lucky kid,” said his mother.
Connor said his friends are really cautious now on the golf cart.
“They tell their friends they can’t ride unless they buckle up,” he said.
“The kids just don’t, we didn’t understand the dangers of driving golf carts on asphalt, concrete,” said Connor’s dad, Isaac. ‘You never think it’s going to be you. In this situation, he (Connor) wasn’t doing anything knowingly reckless. He just didn’t understand that what he was doing could be as dangerous as it was. I think that’s the message with golf carts. If you’re on concrete you have to be very careful or else you can get seriously injured.”
Wolfson Children’s Hospital said it has seen a significant increase in the number of children injured on golf carts.
“We know kids are twice as likely to get hurt on a golf cart than an adult is,” explained Wolfson Children’s prevention coordinator Jessica Winberry.
“People are using these routinely in their neighborhoods. Parents are taking their kids to places on them, sometimes you see kids driving them alone,” she said. “They think they don’t go fast and sometimes they do and we’ve seen golf carts tip over.”
She reminds parents to make sure their children are seat belted into golf carts, slow down when turning in one and cautions that younger children are not as stable on golf carts since their feet don’t touch the floor, preventing them from keeping their balance.
Winberry spoke with us on National Injury Prevention Day after Wolfson decided to focus its safety message on golf cart accidents. To learn more about the prevalence of these kinds of injuries and other preventable injuries click here to see a virtual discussion with hospital experts.
In the meantime, the Gooding family said this year, Thanksgiving will be especially significant to its entire family. They are forever grateful to have their son healthy and at home.
“It wasn’t Connor’s time,” said his mother. “He is still our Connor, which is amazing because I’ve gone with him to all these rehab clinics and I see what could have been and it breaks my heart for the families that do have these injuries.
“You just have to take life as a gift and what you’re given and the uncertainty of being a kid or a mother and any second that could be taken away,” she said.