BOSTON (CBS) -- Big man Aron Baynes was a fan favorite during his two seasons with the Celtics, bringing a lot of grit to the paint for Boston. Since his departure, Boston fans are always trying to figure out a way to get Baynes back to the C's.
Since he was traded by the Celtics two years ago, there was usually a small "Bring Back Baynes" movement around the trade deadline. But that will not be happening this year, as Baynes is still working his way back from a mysterious injury that he suffered during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. While playing for the Australian team, Baynes was left temporarily paralyzed following a series of falls. It was a terrifying ordeal that Baynes discussed with ESPN's Brian Windhorst.
His first fall came on the court, at the end of halftime warmups during Australia's first game. Baynes hit his head and neck on the floor after he lost his balance on his way down from a dunk. He sat out the second half of Australia's game against Nigeria as a precaution.
Three days later, Baynes slipped and fell in the locker room while making an in-game trip to the restroom during a semifinal matchup with Italy. A staff member found him on the ground in the locker room, with blood pouring from a pair of puncture wounds on Baynes' arm. Groggy from the fall, Baynes could not remember why he ended up on the floor or how he was cut.
It was assumed that Baynes suffered a concussion and cut his arm on a pair of hooks on the wall. But then he began to feel a tingling sensation in his legs. Then he couldn't move his left hand and arm. He was rushed to a local hospital and an MRI revealed that Baynes had internal bleeding, which was putting pressure on his spinal cord.
Baynes spent the next two weeks in a small hospital room, needing two beds to fit his 6-foot-10 frame, trying to stand again. He struggled to communicate with doctors, and because of COVID-19 restrictions, no one from the Australian team could be with him. He was eventually allowed to see the team doctor and athletic trainer for 15 minutes a day, and teammates Matthew Dellavedova and Nathan Sobey -- posing as doctors to get by security -- brought Baynes his bronze medal.
"The loneliest time in my life was laying in that hospital, going in and out of consciousness, going over my life plan and my goals and just crying," Baynes told Windhorst.
Baynes was eventually able to talk with an Australian neurosurgeon, who had seen his condition before and charted out a plan to get the swelling down. It would allow Baynes to get home, but first he had to stand on his own. It took him 11 days to get enough strength back to do so.
Making the 4,000-mile flight was no walk in the part for Baynes either. He took a special medical plane, and had to be strapped down on his back and anesthetized for the flight -- all eight hours of it. He still couldn't walk on his own, so he had to be stretchered to an ambulance and taken to the hospital, where he had to go through a mandatory two-week quarantine because of COVID-19 protocols.
Making it even more difficult for Baynes, he couldn't be with his family outside of seeing them through a window while he began an intensive physical therapy program. Baynes was in the hospital for nearly a month, slowly progressing each day. He eventually started walking again, but had weakness in his left leg. The comeback required him to essentially reteach his body how to function.
The good news is that Baynes has made significant progress over the last months. He has started running again, and he's hoping that by next October, he'll be back to banging bodies in the paint in the NBA.
"I don't know what the path will look like, but I'm going to give it one hell of a crack," said the 35-year-old.
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