A junior at Willamina High School was paralyzed from the waist down after a single-car crash. It has been six months since the crash that altered Owen Baker’s life.
He was a passenger in the back seat of a Jeep Wrangler late in the afternoon of Oct. 22, headed to Nestucca for a fishing expedition with two friends. Only Baker, who was wearing a seat belt, suffered serious injuries after the vehicle rolled over and plunged down what he described as “a 35-foot embankment” in slippery conditions.
The 16-year-old said there have been dark days during his recovery, but thoughts of “why me?” are typically replaced by “thinking about good stuff,” said Baker, who has participated in football, wrestling, basketball, and track.
Baker has regained some feeling in both legs, and because it’s an incomplete spinal injury he hopes to walk again. But while he’s confined to a wheelchair, he refuses to let that stop him from living.
There have been dark days during his recovery, but thoughts of ‘why me?’ are typically replaced by “thinking about good stuff,” said Baker, 16, who has participated in football, wrestling, basketball and track and field at Willamina.
The positive thoughts centered around what didn’t happen: his spinal cord was not severed. He has regained some feeling in both legs, and because it’s an incomplete spinal injury there’s hope that one day he’ll walk again.
Baker has returned to the track as a para-athlete, utilizing a racing chair to compete in the 100-meter dash, 400 and 1,500. He’s learned to throw the shot put from his wheelchair with some coaching from junior shot putter Andrew Kennedy, who also was a passenger in the crash.
“He throws as far as I did when I first started and that’s sitting down,” said Kennedy, shaking his head and smiling as he marveled about the accomplishment.
Baker and Kennedy have been friends since second grade and the accident has strengthened their bond. Kennedy admires the way Baker handled himself in the moments after the accident and throughout his recovery.
“Just the way he’s taken it is just amazing,” Kennedy said. “Even during the accident he was still calm, kept his composure. I know if I were him I’d be crying like a little baby. It really is inspirational.”