One year after Lehigh Carbon Community College student Dakota Laudenslager was diagnosed with a brain tumor, he’s healthy and back to playing the sport he loves.
“I’ve played baseball for 15 years, all through school. I’m so grateful to be back on the field,” Laudenslager said.
The 20-year-old began to feel dizzy and have frequent headaches back in spring 2018. Then, about midway through the baseball season, the symptoms became so severe that his family rushed him to the emergency room.
“They did a CAT scan, and that’s when they found the brain tumor,” Laudenslager said.
He was moved to the Intensive Care Unit and kept there for more extensive testing. An MRI helped doctors determine that the tumor wasn’t cancerous, but was still dangerous and needed to be surgically removed. Just a few days later, Laudenslager underwent surgery.
The whole hospital stay lasted about a week, from the ER visit to when Laudenslager was discharged.
“I was in surgery Thursday or Friday, and I was good to go home on Saturday,” he said, adding that the surgery was a success, and he didn’t even need physical therapy as part of his recovery.
Laudenslager had to withdraw from two of his four courses because the work was too demanding to complete while he was recovering at home. He was able to complete the other two courses, however, thanks to an extension that his coach helped put into place.
“We talked with each of his instructors and worked with his family to make sure the paperwork was filed to cover an extension,” said Darrin Lenhart, LCCC’s head baseball coach. “We made sure the courses were squared away, so that he could go back to his work when he was healthy enough.”
Laudenslager wasn’t able to play for the rest of the 2018 baseball season, but he attended many of the games to cheer on his team.
"Dakota is the perfect teammate. He’s always positive toward his teammates and always willing to do anything for them,” Lenhart said. “He does whatever is asked of him and gives everything he's got. I have no doubt that having that same attitude when faced with his health issues is why, less than a calendar year later, he is able to play again.”
Lenhart and the team visited Laudenslager while he was in the hospital, as well as sent cards and brought food for the family. So, Laudenslager decided that he wanted to surprise them after his surgery.
“The day I came home (from the hospital), we had a game. So I told my family I wanted to go to the game, and I walked through the fence - the team was really excited. They were all surprised I was back already.”
Laudenslager focused on his recovery over the summer and through the fall 2018 semester. He remained on the baseball team and was able to do some drills during fall practices, but was limited until a doctor gave the OK.
“In the fall, we played a few scrimmages, but it was driving me crazy because I couldn’t play until a certain date. By the time a doctor released me, the fall season was over,” Laudenslager said.
Now, he is back to playing baseball with no restrictions. The team kicked off the 2019 season in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where they opened with a 6-0 record. In his first game back, Laudenslager started at second base and was 1-2 with a double, one walk and two runs scored at the plate.
“My first game back in Myrtle Beach was fun. I felt like I played well and the team was behind me,” Laudenslager said.
"It is really good to see him back on the field,” said Andrew Johnson, LCCC’s director of athletics. “He was always a part of the team even when he couldn't participate on the field. It's young men like him and opportunities like this that make our jobs as coaches and administrators worthwhile.”
The Cougars finished the 2019 season with a 15-19 overall record after a loss to No. 1 ranked Cumberland County College on May 1.
Laudenslager is also back to taking classes full time, with four in the spring 2019 semester. He is still required to see a doctor once a year for an MRI and checkup, but otherwise is completely healthy.
He’s on track to graduate with an associate degree in Industrial Automation in Fall 2020. Laudenslager plans to enter the workforce right after graduation, but may continue his studies to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree. He also plans to continue playing baseball.
"I'm so blessed for the amazing support I had from my coaches and the team both last year and this year,” Laudenslager said. “Thank you for all the prayers and support, it meant so much to me and my family.”
For more information on the athletics programs at LCCC, visit gocougarsports.com or contact Johnson at 610-799-1155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.