When professional motocross racer Aaron Baker suffered a life-altering spinal cord injury in 1999, he was declared a quadriplegic. He had a high-level neck injury, and it was expected that he’d be paralyzed for the rest of his life.
In "Coming To My Senses," a forthcoming film by director Dominic Gill and producer Nadia Boctor, you can watch Baker stand on his own two feet again, completing a weeklong, 20-mile walk through California's Death Valley.
The film came about when Boctor and Gill were working on a project in 2010 about a group of people with disabilities taking a bicycle trip across the U.S. They came into contact with Baker during the making of that project, ultimately making him the subject of a short film, "All That I Am."
The viral response to that four-minute video led its creators to pursue a more lengthy project, and they ultimately found a walk through Death Valley would be another incredible challenge for Baker to overcome.
The Death Valley journey was far from the first feat Baker accomplished following his accident. During the course of his recovery, Baker has continued competing as a bicyclist and he qualified for the Paralympic games. He also hasn’t lost his love of the sport that nearly ended his life.
“He’s still a motorhead, he still loves going to the races. He definitely still understands the pull and the attraction of the sport,” Boctor said. “He’s not necessarily against it.”
It is difficult to change the mind and spirit of an athlete, and Baker's passion has persevered.
Boctor positions "Coming To My Senses" as “part two” of the discussion started by "The Crash Reel," the 2013 documentary that profiled snowboarder Kevin Pearce’s traumatic brain injury. While "The Crash Reel" was focused on identifying the risks and horrors of extreme sports, "Coming To My Senses" recognizes that many people, like Baker, will continue competing regardless.
“Yes, accidents happen and extreme sports are risky. But we shouldn’t only focus on that. We should focus on the fact that many people have meaningful and fulfilling lives even after injury,” Boctor said.
The argument isn't that motocross should be avoided for its inherent risks, it's that hope exists even if injury occurs.
“Here's an incredible story of what someone goes on to do even after they sustain this horrible injury,” Boctor added.
The film, which has been endorsed by the Christopher Reeve Foundation on its Kickstarter page, is also intended to start a debate about health care policy for spinal cord injuries. It addresses the fact that insurance for quadriplegics caps out early on, even if a recovery like the one Baker achieved is potentially possible.
“Baker was declared ‘rehabilitated’ by his insurance company after one year,” Boctor said. “After one year he’s barely out of critical care.”
With a combination of familial support, consistent physical therapy and sheer determination, Baker managed to regain his mobility. Boctor believes this film may inspire others to see that there’s a chance they could do the same.
“We want to give people who are freshly injured a sign or a signal that says you should keep pushing, don’t let anyone tell you you’re not going to do it, you never know what you’re going to achieve,” Boctor said.
Although Baker’s recovery was against all odds — doctors put his chances of ever feeding himself again at one in a million — it might not be an isolated example of what people are able to achieve.
“Is everyone capable of this? No,” Boctor said. “But are people capable of more than they often get? Probably. If they have better care, if they better support, if they’re able to tap into what’s inside of them, absolutely.”
Image Source: AaronBakers.com