Fort Wayne MMA fighter continues to battle for his life

Published: May. 8, 2023 at 11:18 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - On March 4, Isaiah Abels, a 21-year-old MMA fighter from Fort Wayne, was down in Evansville competing in a fight. That’s when the unexpected happened.

“He went into some type of cardiac arrest,” Robert Abels said. “He won the first round; he was winning the second round. The doctors told me, I never found out why, but he went into some cardiac arrest. His heart stopped beating, his brain stopped getting oxygen and blood, he collapsed at some time during the fight.”

Robert Abels is Isaiah’s father. He spoke to me from the dojang that Isaiah trained in when he was younger.

Robert says that night, he was home, five hours away from the fight. That’s when he received a call from his son, Elijah, and listened in horror to what was happening.

“Elijah was like, ‘dad his skin’s white, his lips are blue’ and I was like, ‘He’s not breathing’ and he was like, ‘dad they’re doing CPR on him’ and I was like, ‘He’s dead Elijah, he’s dead’ and I was just pacing the floor back and forth but there was nothing I could do because I was five hours away,” Robert said.

Elijah is Isaiah’s twin brother. He was in Evansville that night, a part of Isaiah’s corner in the fight.

Even though Elijah was there, like his father, he felt helpless.

“After 30 seconds, a minute, he wasn’t getting up,” Elijah said. “He was just sitting there flat, his lips went blue, you see his legs and his arms twitching.”

Isaiah was transported to a nearby hospital in Evansville.

When Robert finally arrived, the bad news continued to rain down on him.

“It was at the place where the doctor said, ‘he’s got severe brain damage’ and I just broke down and cried, because I knew what that meant,” Robert said.

Doctors told Robert that, because of the damage to Isaiah’s brain from the lack of oxygen, part of his brain may never heal.

“He can’t sit up, he can’t walk, he can’t speak, he can’t swallow, he can’t hold his head up,” Robert said. “It’s just mentally and physically he’s gone and he’s never coming back, and that just breaks my heart.”

Isaiah was put on life support for four weeks.

Once he was taken off life support, he traveled to different hospitals across the state to receive the best treatment possible.

It’s been an impossible journey for every member of his family.

“Behind closed doors, it’s rough, it’s devastating,” Elijah said. “I’ve seen my mom get up and cry every single morning.”

Robert agrees it’s been a difficult change. But, he says, he’s come to accept Isaiah’s condition and do everything he can to help him.

Still, he says, it’s a situation he may never fully understand.

“I think he hears you in a room, I think he knows what’s going on, but he’s trapped in his body and physically and mentally, he’s just, he’s 21 years old and he’s gone and he’s never coming back,” Robert said.

Robert says Isaiah will be discharged from the Indianapolis hospital he’s in now later this month. He says once he’s discharged, Isaiah will come live at home, where they hope he’ll continue to get treatment.

If you’d like to stay updated on Isaiah’s journey, or want to help out, you can do so at his GoFundMe page. You can click on the link here.