Akil Mitchell of the New Zealand Breakers.
Akil Mitchell of the New Zealand Breakers. Anthony Au-Yeung

Breakers star recovering after having eye poked out

BASKETBALL: New Zealand Breakers forward Akil Mitchell is in good spirits and has avoided serious damage after suffering a sickening eye injury during his side's loss to the Cairns Taipans on Thursday night.

Mitchell received a poke to the eye early in the fourth quarter of the clash at the North Shore Events Centre, collapsing to the court as teammates and opponents reacted with horror.

Supporters nearby also appeared stunned by the incident and, while the televised broadcast was careful to avoid showing replays, images on social media showed that Mitchell's eyeball had been dislodged from the socket.

Mitchell spoke to Daniel McHardy on Radio Sport on Friday for the first time since the incident.

"I just remember jumping up to grab the ball and seeing a finger and feeling it go into my eye," Mitchell said.

"I thought 'oh man he poked me in the eye that feels bad'. Then I felt it out of place and I freaked out and thought something was wrong here.

"Then, with the palm of my hand, I felt my eyeball on the side of my face. It was worse than I thought it was.

"I immediately started squirming. I kind of lost it. I thought 'I've really hurt myself here, I just hope I can see again' and started thinking about family, but then I just tried to get out of the situation as best as possible.

"I never lost consciousness. I could still see out of the eye even though it was on the outside of my face. It was still functioning fine, just was on the side of my face. It was a weird sensation. It was more just a strange feeling, than 'oh my god this hurts'.

"I remember rolling over and I knew it was out of place, and I heard the crowd take a deep breath and I thought 'this is pretty bad'. When you hear people gasp like that they're looking at something they don't like. At that point I just tried to calm myself down because I didn't want to do more damage.

"I had a lot of really bad thoughts and I wasn't sure how serious it would be. For five or 10 minutes I couldn't stop kicking my legs, it was out of my eye socket so I couldn't blink, which was torture.

"It was really dry and really red, I just wanted to blink my eye. But after 30 minutes and after we had been in the ambulance, I took some medicine and they put the saline into my eye and I felt it slide back into place. It felt so good to be able to blink again.

"I'm blessed that its healed the way it has already and I'm hoping I will be able to play again soon.

"I've got a good sense of humour about it. I saw the doctor this morning and he freaked me out with how nonchalant and comfortable he was with it, he didn't see any damage and right now it just looks like some scratches and bruising around the eye, and everything's now looking good.

"I have a follow-up scheduled for next week, then I can start putting contacts back into my eye and make sure there are no side effects or anything. They're hoping I can get back to the court pretty soon, I just need some goggles."

"I can't watch it. I have seen some screenshots and short snippets of me squirming on floor but I can't watch the whole thing. I can't watch the injury and I'm not sure if I'm ready to try."


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