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As football plays go, it was as routine as any.
Steven Bailey, a sophomore running back for the Edinburgh football team, was sprinting down the field, carrying the ball, when a swarm of Manual tacklers crashed into him — from different directions — and hauled him down to the ground.
Within moments, the tacklers leaped to their feet.
Bailey did not.
The Bailey File
Name: Steven Bailey
High school: Edinburgh
Sports: Football, track and field
Football positions: Running back, kick returner
Varsity experience: Second season
Family: Parents, Harvey and Susan Bailey; brother, Tyler Bailey, 19; sister, Amanda Collins, 28
Having absorbed crushing blows to his lower torso, the 6-foot, 160-pound player writhed in pain. Coaches and trainers, from both schools, rushed to his aid.
After several minutes, Bailey, exhibiting signs of hurt ribs, got to his feet. With the aid of teammates, he walked to the sideline, then to the locker room, then back to the field, where he took a seat on the bench.
He then collapsed onto the track.
Conscious but in agony, he was placed on a cart, wheeled to his parents’ car, then driven by his mother and father to a southside hospital, where — upon arrival — it became clear their son was suffering from something considerably worse than damaged ribs.
He was clinging to life, bleeding internally, the collective result of a ruptured spleen, a lacerated kidney and a punctured lung.
He received lifesaving treatment on the spot and was then flown by helicopter to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis, where he was admitted to the intensive care unit.
Suffice it to say, there was nothing routine about what Bailey suffered during Friday’s night’s season-opener at Emmerich Manual High School in Indianapolis, where he went down with a few minutes to play in the first half with what seemed to be no more than a common football injury.
“We left there with the thought of a bruised or maybe a cracked or even a broken rib,” said Bailey’s father, Harvey Bailey, who drove his son to the hospital that night. “By the time we got him to the hospital, I don’t know how much blood your body’s got, but he’d lost enough that if he’d lost much more we would have lost him.”
No longer in danger
That was what doctors told Bailey’s parents, Harvey and Susan, when they got their son to St. Franciscan St. Francis Health-Indianapolis that Friday night. He had lost about a quart of blood. After getting replenished, he was flown to Riley, where he received more lifesaving treatment and is recovering.
Removed from intensive care on Sunday, Bailey had a stent placed in his damaged kidney on Monday. Although he faces the possibility of having his spleen removed, his life no longer is in danger, and he is expected to make a full recovery.
But had his parents made a different decision Friday night than the one to go to St. Francis, the outcome might have been different.
Not aware of the severity of their son’s injuries, the Baileys were going to take him to Columbus Regional Health, nearer their home. But they detoured to St. Francis, on the south side of Indianapolis, when it became clear the 15-year-old needed immediate help.
“He got to where he was screaming a little too much in the backseat, and so we took him to St. Francis, which was a lot closer,” Harvey Bailey said. “If we had made that decision to take him further down the road, we would have lost him.
“From there, they had a team of doctors working on him and pushing blood into his body. You could actually see the color coming back in his skin, instantly.”
A rare injury
Edinburgh football coach Tim Leonard has been around the game as a coach a quarter-century. He is also a former high school football player and has seen nearly every kind of gridiron injury — fractures, dislocations, dehydration, concussions, cuts and bruises. Except the kind that Bailey suffered.
Leonard has never coached a player or even been around one who has suffered any sort of internal injury. And it’s a message he drove home to players once they learned what happened to their teammate.
“I told the other kids, I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I’ve never had a kid have a ruptured spleen,” said Leonard, who is filling in as temporary coach while head coach Bill Unsworth recovers from neck surgery. “Even the doctor said it was just a freakish thing.
“It was pretty scary there for a while.”
Edinburgh athletics director David Walden, a former high school player and football coach, echoed the sentiment.
“I’ve never seen anybody with a ruptured spleen and kidney like that and a punctured lung,” Walden said. “The years I coached football, I’d never seen an injury like that before. You see (torn) ACLs and broken bones, but never ones as severe as that. I think most kids know it’s a game where there’s a possibility they could get hurt.
“You just reassure them that that freak injury was a freak injury.”
Although the IHSAA does not track injuries, its leader, Bobby Cox, concurred that the kind Bailey suffered are exceedingly rare in football.
“It’s been many years since I’ve heard of anything of that nature,” Cox said. “Most of the time it’s about helmet to helmet contact. It’s a head injury that if something like that occurs where a kid’s removed and hospitalized, or it’s a heat situation.
“But an internal injury, it’s very rare.”
‘It was amazing’
And in Bailey’s instance, it was even harder to determine, on-site, that anything life-threatening had occurred. Although he needed the help of teammates to walk off the field, he did walk. And when he got to the hospital, doctors were stunned that he had not lost consciousness.
But what truly amazed them was his post-injury mobility.
“The doctors said he shouldn’t have been able to walk. It was amazing,” Harvey Bailey said. “He walked to the locker room, and he walked out. He sat on the bench, without his shoulder pads on, and he kind of rolled off the bench, and that’s when one of the coaches came over and said we probably ought to take him and get him checked out.
“So we did, thank God.”
Once at the hospital, Bailey asked but a few questions.
“While he was in there getting worked, the only thing he wanted to know was, ‘Who won the game? Am I going to play again? Am I going to die?’ That’s all he asked, in that order.”
Edinburgh won 26-12. He is expected to play again. And he’s not going to die.
Although Bailey is expected to spend at least another week in the hospital, followed by several weeks of bed-rest, doctors project he’ll make a full recovery.
Though still tired and weary on Monday, he did a little homework, with aid of Riley tutors and was beginning to get his strength back — the first step, dad insists, on someday getting back on the playing field.
Not this season, but very likely next.
“He’ll play again,” Harvey said. “There’s no way you’ll get that kid off the field.”
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