The Mysterious Fall of Aron Baynes
- It was the start of the 4th quarter, and the Australian Olympic baskettball team was in a close game with Italy, in a very important group stage match. If the Boomers won, it would guarantee their advancement to the medal round. That is when Aron Baynes, the Aussie center, was looking to be checked into the game by coach Brian Goorijan. He had been playing well that game, with 14 points in 14 minutes and a few 3’s. He was about to go in and battle fellow NBA players Nicolo Melli and Danilo Gallinari. The problem was, he was nowhere to be found…
- It was a long way to the bathroom in the Tokyo arena, and Baynes had gone to use it between the 3rd and 4th quarters. He had to go diagonally across the court, down a hallway and then down a flight of stairs. He had left running so that he wouldn’t miss the start of the 4th quarter.
- When he didn’t return, one of the staff members went to look for him, and found him in the locker room sprawled on the floor near the bathroom, blood on his uniform with 2 deep, inexplicable puncture wounds on his upper arm. so, the team doctor was summoned, then the paramedics, as Baynes was groggy and couldn’t seem to get himself up.
- Aron Baynes remembered running around a corner to head toward the bathrooms… and then, nothing. An investigation was launched shortly after to try and determine what actually happened. There were 2 hooks on the wall for towels that looked like they could possibly have caused the cuts. As the team medical officials got him onto a stretcher, he was texting photos of his wound to his agent in NY and keeping an eye on the game simultaneously. He still hadn’t used the bathroom and had to go, so he got up off the stretcher. When he did, he immediately fell to the floor.
- In that moment, nobody could have imagined that Baynes had lost his ability to walk, or that he was going to be isolated in a Japanese hospital with the possibility that he might be paralyzed.
- Rewinding to the Boomers’ first game of the olympics 3 days prior, Aron Baynes came out to warmup for the second half against Nigeria. With his hands still wet from the hand sanitizer he just put on, he had gone up for a dunk in the layup line and his fingers slipped off the rim. On the way down, he lost his balance and landed on his head and neck. He sat the 2nd half out for precaution, but he seemed to be okay.
- 3 days later when Baynes slipped and fell in the bathroom, it wasn’t clear if it was due to the effects of the first fall, or just water on the floor.
- When he was found on the floor, medics initially thought he had suffered a concussion. But as time passed, his legs started to tingle, and he soon realized he couldn’t move his left hand or arm.
- Baynes was taken by an ambulance to the hospital and immediately put through an array of scans. An MRI showed he had internal bleeding that was putting pressure on his spinal cord.
- Due to Covid, Tokyo was in a state of emergency and Baynes couldn’t have anyone from the team with him, and he was having trouble communicating with the Japanese nurses and doctors.
- His agent was searching for answers, and his wife was worried sick in Australia- the problem was, nobody could actually get into Japan to check on him.
- Baynes was put into a very small room, and because there was no bed long enough for him, the nurses slid another bed sideways to prop up his feet.
- For nearly 2 weeks, Baynes focused on doing what he had to do to be able to stand. If he could stand, he could take the flight from Tokyo to Brisbane.
- After Australia won the bronze medal, teammate Matthew Dellavedova came to the hospital to bring Baynes his medal, posing as a doctor to get past security.
- Getting home for him was difficult, having to charter a special medical plane while being strapped down on his back and anesthetized for the entire 8 hour flight back to Brisbane. Even after he got back, he had to undergo a mandatory 2-week quarantine in a local hospital and was still unable to see his family.
- He began intensive physical therapy, and went from not being able to walk to being able to run in just a few months.
- After this crazy journey, Aron Baynes still has a goal of getting back to the NBA. He said he doesn’t now what the path will look like, but he will give it everything he’s got to make it happen.
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