Sunday March 4, 2012, Pro Finals at the Toronto BMX Jam. Drew Bezanson had discovered the ledge 20 feet above the floor of the course and how to stall that ledge by using the spine – not just to get up there, but down as well. Huge moments: the gathered crowd went nuts. It was one of those moments that will long be remembered in the stellar history of the Toronto BMX Jam.
But another event occurred that day as well. Awards time at the end of the day, and the always creative Brett Banasiewicz took centre stage as he received the third place trophy for his 92.7 score for a ride that included over 20 tricks: flips, 720 spins, opposite flairs, no handers, flip flairs, foot jam tail whips and a 900. He was presented with a cheque for $1000 from the Toronto Bike Show. Without a moment’s hesitation he turned over his winnings to Toronto BMX, the local group that is always struggling but never manages to make ends meet and orchestrate the annual March Jam and provide ramps to communities around Toronto to help promote the sport.
Flash forward to mid August in Ocean City, Maryland where, at Dew Tour, he captured first place for his stunning ride in Park. Then 4 days later on August 23 in Virginia Beach, Virginia at the Vans Invitational Comp, an abrupt end. He was attempting a 720, but landed on loose sand causing his bike to slip out from under him. The left side of his head and right shoulder ended up receiving the impact of the fall. No broken bones, but the head trauma was so severe it shut him down. Appearing dead, a respiratory tube was implanted down his throat to supply oxygen. He was in the hospital in Norfolk for a couple of weeks including days of forced coma.
Towards the end of September, after extensive research, his dad had him transferred to the Acquired Brain Injury treatment facility at Shepherd Centre in Atlanta, Georgia, a trauma centre that specializes in brain injury. It is beside the Piedmont Hospital in the downtown area.
I had an opportunity to visit Brett on October 23. His intensity and vigour was clearly evident. He could not talk: his vocal chords were destroyed by the respiratory tube shoved down his throat at the accident. Healing was underway but speech still months away. Injury swellings were subsiding. He had lost 50 pounds since the accident, at that time just under 130 pounds (catatonic weight loss). Basic stability improved daily I was told, but he had difficulty standing up and becoming stable upright. Walking was a challenge as his brain still couldn’t get his legs to move him forward without crossing his legs. He could not eat: he had a tube shoved into his stomach that delivered a brown substance resembling Metamucil.
Yes, he had insurance, but not enough to cover all of his expenses. The Hospital room and the accompanying treatments total $4000 per day, for example. His sponsors were behind him 100% when he was riding well, but have been less than supportive since the accident. Many of his expenses have been covered by the Athlete Recovery Fund, including the dedicated services of Trish Bare to supplement and extend what is provided by the hospital (“So proud of how hard he works at getting stronger”, Facebook comment, Dec11/12). His treatments at the Shepherd Centre include hyperbaric treatment, muscle (physical), cognitive and speech therapy.
Towards the end of November, Brett was moved to a different recovery centre that specializes in athletic performance in Dallas Texas. Trish’s regular reports on Facebook document incredible results spearheaded by Brett’s aggressive personal agenda. After his stay in Dallas, things remain pretty uncertain at this point. Brett wants to recover fully. Specialists who have examined him say that he can. Dad’s concerned about rebuilding his muscle definition and trying to gain back his body weight through muscle development.
Those of you who met, knew or loved Brett before the accident will no doubt be saddened to see him now. But he is not discouraged by the situation he finds himself in. Nor should we.
At the Toronto BMX Jam this coming March we would like to do all that we can to show our support for the long journey on the road that lies before him. First and foremost, we need to welcome him back to our community. Already, he has assisted in designing the course for the Jam. If he is able, he would appreciate being able to be part of the judging team, at least for the Pro riders on Sunday. While he appears to have a bit of help with his recovery from insurance coverage, it will not fully pay for all of his expenses nor will it help him chart a course back into BMX. We will provide opportunities for financial contributions through our registration and with a raffle. We will sure appreciate everyone’s contribution, no matter how small.
Yes, BMX is a high risk sport. But prior to his accident, Brett had been riding at his best. He was in peak condition and form. Sometimes, things just go wrong for no particular reason. That’s why we Canadians can take a bit of pride in having a system that allows us to look after each other. But American’s don’t, so it only makes sense that we extend our compassion and sympathy to our friend in another part of the world.
Please welcome Brett back to our event and wish him God’s speed for recovery.
1. Complete BMX Bike from EASTERN BIKES
2. GoPro CAMERA from OUTDOOR GEAR CANADA