Susan Bailey recalls a time when her son, Steven, took a hard spill on his dirt bike.
He was 6. He was shaken and did not want to get back on.
“He didn’t want to ride his bicycle, but his mean mom made him do it,” Susan Bailey recalled. “My husband was like, ‘You’re so mean.’ I was like, ‘If he doesn’t get on that bike and ride, he never will.’”
Steven Bailey, a sophomore running back on the Edinburgh Community High School football team, hasn’t been afraid of much ever since, which could explain his faster-than-expected recovery from severe internal injuries suffered during last Friday’s season-opener at Indianapolis Manual.
If all goes according to plan, the 15-year-old will be on the sideline Friday night for the Lancers’ home-opener against North Decatur — one week to the day after he was flown by medical helicopter to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis, where he received lifesaving treatment for a ruptured spleen, a lacerated kidney and a punctured lung.
Initially projected to spend at least a week in the hospital, Bailey — who received a surprise visit and an autographed football Tuesday from Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck — is expected to be released no later than Friday. He could go home as early as Thursday.
When he does, he’ll have medical clearance to rejoin teammates, albeit as a spectator.
“He’s going to the Edinburgh football game on Friday. He asked if he could go, and I told him he could,” his father, Harvey Bailey, said late Tuesday morning. “He’s wanting to go in the locker room and talk to his teammates. He’s wanting to be around his buddies and his team.
“He’s really tore up because he’s done for the year.”
But he is on the fast track to recovery.
On Monday, one day after being released from intensive care, Bailey had a stent placed in his damaged kidney and still faced the possibility of having his spleen removed. But doctors have saved the organ, and he doesn’t require further surgery.
His oxygen mask, I.V. and catheter have been removed, and he has started catching up on homework from his hospital bed. He’s eating solid food and is expected to begin walking today.
His parents attribute faith in a higher power to their son’s recovery.
“It’s awesome. You always go to church on Sunday, and you try to do your best to be a good Christian, and then something like this happens. It makes you realize how much (God) is there for you, and how he’s always with those doctors, and how he can work miracles,” Susan Bailey said. “You never know what kind of situation you’re going to be in.”
The situation last Friday night was near-tragic.
Late in the first half at Manual, Bailey absorbed multiple blows from a swarm of tacklers while running with the football. He screamed in pain and remained on the ground for several minutes, exhibiting signs of bruised, or possibly broken, ribs. But with the help of teammates, he got his feet and walked to the sideline, then to the locker room, then back to the field, where he collapsed on the track after taking a seat on the bench.
At that point, he was wheeled on a cart to his parents’ car. They intended to drive him to Columbus Regional Health near their home but instead went to Franciscan St. Francis Health-Indianapolis because of Bailey’s extreme pain.
Still thinking their son had, at worst, broken ribs, Harvey and Susan Bailey were not prepared for what happened next.
“It was surreal,” Susan Bailey said. “I didn’t think (his injuries were) that bad, even when he was out in the entryway of the emergency room. He had no color in his skin at all. I just thought he was severely dehydrated, because he was sweating.
“And then you go in the trauma room. It’s just like it is on TV, all those people running around doing their own specific jobs. And then they do the ultrasound and say he has internal bleeding, then you’re just like beside yourself. Wow, I can’t believe this is happening. And they tell you they’re going to LifeLine him, and that makes it even scarier.”
Teammates were disturbed by the news, as well.
“We were all shocked, because we saw him walking off the field,” said senior center and team captain Dakota Sneed, who was only a few feet from Bailey when the swarm arrived. “He’s generally a tough kid, so when we saw him go down and walk off the field, we were thinking, ‘OK, we’re lucky that he didn’t really get hurt.’
“But after the game our coaches told us the actual news, and so we were all just shocked. At that time, we were just hoping and praying for the best.”
Barring an unforeseen setback, all the prayers have been answered. Nothing will demonstrate it more clearly than his anticipated presence on the Lancers’ sideline Friday night.
“He’s a great teammate to us. He’s a good locker room player,” Sneed said. “I think we’ll be playing hard for him. He’s a friend of ours. He was a lively one in the group, but he also knew how to work hard when it came down to it.
“I think the overall morale of the team will improve. We really wish that he could play with us.”
He plans to. Eventually.
“Oh, yeah,” Harvey Bailey said. “He’ll be on the field next year.”