JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The family of University of North Florida graduate Andrew Baker says he is fighting for his life after he collapsed near the finish line at the Gate River Run.
Baker, who is an avid runner, suffered multiple cardiac arrhythmias and had to be revived several times on the way to the hospital.
A GoFundMe page for the 26-year-old reads: “Andrew’s MRI scans returned with results showing a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and widespread swelling on his brain. Andrew is now in the great hands of the neuro ICU and is being taken care of by a TEAM of heroes.”
Baker’s family is facing mounting medical costs while he is in a medically induced coma, on dialysis and, under the best circumstances, will require specialized care on his road to recovery.
The family is praying for that miracle moment when Baker wakes up.
“Please keep wearing GREEN, wear fun socks, and keep jamming out to classic rock, reggae, soul, EDM, sing queen at the top of your lungs, and send every single ounce of positive energy and groovy dance move to Andrew. He is OUR fighter!!! From the depths of our souls, we thank you for supporting us and most importantly Andrew. We are so grateful to God for the blessings of each day. Andrew, he feels so very loved, as do we,” the GoFundMe page says.
An avid runner, Baker was planning and training for months to run in the Gate River Run.
“He was so hungry for this race, so excited that it was actually going to happen this year,” said Gillian Baker, Baker’s older sister. “So, naturally, none of us expected this outcome.”
Gate River Run organizer Doug Alred said Andrew Baker finished in the top 10% of runners in the race, which is a big accomplishment.
“We have pictures of him smiling, crossing the finish line probably 10 seconds before he had his heart attack,” Alred said. “He has the biggest smile on his face, so happy he’s finishing.”
“He propelled himself across that finish line, and it was clear that nothing was going to stop him,” Gillian Baker said. “He’s smiling from ear to ear his quintessential, classic, you know, moonbeam smile.”
Alred said people have had heart attacks at races, but it’s rare.
“It’s one of those things, we’re glad it doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “It happens, but I’ve never had it happen to somebody this young.”
As of Tuesday evening, the online fundraising campaign for Andrew Baker had raised over $54,900 from more than 890 donors.
“I am just astounded by the support that we’re receiving, not only from his friends, but complete strangers,” Gillian Baker said. “It’s just awesome to see everybody come together. I thought maybe we’d make $10,000 to be able to contribute. But to see like person after person, I’m not sure you’ve taken a peek, but most of them are anonymous. And so to me that just shows that his reach has no bounds. It’s been just truly humbling to experience this, this type of display for my family.”
Gillian Baker told News4Jax the family is so grateful for the doctors and nurses at UF Health, saying he collapsed in front of their sponsored tent at the race and the nurses and doctors there scrambled to get him the care he desperately needed. She said she also can’t stop thanking the people of Jacksonville for selflessly giving to her little brother. Gillian Baker said the family is from West Palm, so when Andrew Baker graduated, they urged him to come home and get a job near them, but he insisted Jacksonville is his place. She said now she knows why.