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Paul Zipser reports on his progress in the FCBB podcast "OPEN COURT

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Since the end of August, he has finally been seen once again at the Hall in the Audi Dome. The inner circle of the Bayern basketball team saw Paul Zipser making his first runs, first dribbles and shots. A miraculous beginning.

For about two weeks, the national player is now at perhaps the penultimate level before he can really go back to team training with Andrea Trinchieri sometime this winter. In so-called controlled contact, the 27-year-old is just feeling his way back to the game he loves so much.

Now, in late November 2021, Paul Zipser is not yet talking about a possible comeback after surviving brain surgery. It will happen when it's supposed to happen, he says: "Apart from (proper) contact training, there are still a few things missing now, but it's just a matter of time now."

"My rehab is really a roller coaster ride: steady up, then a week back"

Zipser says this in OPEN COURT, the podcast of the Bayern basketball team, where he tells his very personal story for the first time, for an hour and a half. It's an incredible story and he wanted to tell it now: "For me, in the beginning, it was about keeping a lot private for now and focusing on other things. But now is the time that I feel so good that I want to talk about it."

PODCAST

The public has seen this long-missing, optimistic and so ultra-casual Paul Zipser train a few times in the Audi Dome directly before the games of the EuroLeague quarterfinalists; with Emilio Kovacic, the individual coach of the FCBB. The Croatian is his companion, his developmental aide, driver and also entertainer. For Zipser's path is very long and arduous.

"My rehab is really a roller coaster ride: steadily upward, but every now and then a week back," says Zipser.

And so Paul tells OPEN COURT about the sudden balance problems and headaches before the fourth playoff semifinal on June 4, 2021, where he initially tried a bit of cycling to help but eventually watched his colleagues advance to the final:

"I realized at some point that something was wrong with me. (...) Together with the headaches, it all sounded at first as if I had a migraine. (...) But then I realized shortly before the game: This is not working. (...) Then I wake up in the morning and have numbness. (...) I called the doctor and said: This can't be right. (...) From the time I was picked up by the car, I completely switched to sleep mode: I want to close my eyes, I just wanted to lie down and be done."

"That was on the ear, on the cerebellum, already a crappy spot".

The day after Munich's final appearance, team doctor Sebastian Torka and general manager Marko Pesic call on Bayern's much-vaunted network of doctors. The diagnosis was a shock: a brain tumor on the brain stem, a so-called cavernoma.

"Surgery in that area is really highly, highly complicated, even the very best surgeons in the world reach their limits."

Teamarzt Sebastian Torka about the operation of Paul Zipser

Paul remembers: "We did a few tests in the MRI (...) and then it was actually clear: Ok, now an operation would be necessary."

Doctor Torka also has his say at OPEN COURT and lectures: "This is a very sensitive area of the brain stem, among other things the center for coordination, for breathing, for seeing - that's what makes the whole thing so dangerous. (...) The operation in this area is really highly complicated, even the best surgeons in the world reach their limits. (...) The worst case would have been permanent damage (...) to the respiratory center..."

Could have been. Everything went well. A masterpiece, this delicate operation, in which everything was really at stake: Prof. Dr. Bernhard Meyer, Director of Neurosurgery at the Munich Klinikum "rechts der Isar" succeeded in "an excellent job", judges colleague Torka. Paul knows that, too:

"The evening before the operation - that was also emotional. I was already a little scared."

"That was on the ear, on the cerebellum, already a shitty spot. (...) A congenital malformation. There are simply several centers in the brain that are responsible for different things; with me it was the coordination, the whole right side was very affected from the beginning (...) The surgery took a little longer than actually planned. Because he was really trying to find the smallest drop of blood somehow and get it out."

Paul Zipser was operated on that day, when Bayern went into the final game series against Berlin, which in retrospect was not vital after all. Marko Pesic had informed the team in detail in the dressing room before the departure to the capital - and Paul learned about the slight state of emergency at those moments later: "The players just got word, from Marko and the doctors, and then I noticed not everyone was doing so well."

Only Paul, it seems during his reflective retrospective in OPEN COURT, was apparently not scared to death.. at most only a little:

"The first two days I wasn't afraid, but then of course you know: from Wednesday on, everything will change for the time being. I've already had a few surgeries, but the night before - that was emotional, too. Yes, I was a bit scared." (...) But I knew that I had the perfect conditions: the perfect doctor, the perfect team around me; I know that I'm a healthy athlete at the best age - so if anyone can survive something like that, then I have the optimal conditions."

"Where Paul is now is insane for what he's been through".

A pulmonary embolism, a stay in intensive care, and even that was overcome - and then, in the summer of 2021, Paul very slowly returned to normal life, on unsteady legs: Zipser reports on his condition after the operation ("The first thing I can remember was that I was supposed to turn onto my side - that felt to me at the time as if it would take three hours"), on the start of rehab at the Medical Park in Bad Wiessee, where he is gradually getting his body working again, or at least trying to:

"Even in the hall before all of this, when we tested something new and I was supposed to turn my head - I just flew there. (...) "There are ten, 15 things I have to pay attention to now: catching the ball, taking the ball over, dribbling, shooting and stuff. But usually I just think one thing: oh, I'm free, I'm shooting!"

„Basketball ist auf jeden Fall kleiner für mich (…) Gesundheit IST die Nummer eins, alles andere kommt auf Platz vier bis weiter runter. Das habe ich gelernt.“

Paul Zipser

But Paul plods along unperturbed, even in the status of a brain surgery patient he functions like a professional athlete and with Zipser's confidence: "After the surgery, the first thing was the announcement: I'm trying to manage my everyday life. Forget basketball, (...) thankful I don't have any problems for now. But as I noticed: I'm getting better and better and how fast that went, (...) I was told several times: Wow, we would never have thought that! (...) I've never believed, not even now, that it couldn't all come back 100 percent."

"Again, there are other people who are much worse off"

Today, Dr. Torka puts the general astonishment into words: "Where Paul is now is insane for what he has gone through. Huge respect to Paul, (...) how he has always motivated himself anew in rehab. (...) You have to learn a lot of things again and again."

It is now almost six months since the fateful diagnosis, the quick action of all those involved, the intuitive-professional presence of mind, the millimeter-precision work of the doctors. Paul Zipser thanks everyone for this "and one word would be too few". His parents and his sister anyway, and not least his wife Mira, who moved in with him in Bad Wiessee and went through everything with him: "That definitely brought us closer together. She took everything off my hands, at some point I didn't want to do that anymore. (...) But she really took very good care of me, I must say."

But prospects have also shifted for someone who played the best basketball of his career last season, who helped decide the Cup Final in favor of Bayern as the top scorer, who signed with Bayern for three more years virtually on his sickbed.

Paul Zipser says: "Basketball is definitely smaller for me. That does not mean unimportant, but if it should not work, I could probably forget it faster. (...) I certainly deal with people differently now (...) I think I've become even more relaxed through this whole story. I have a different perspective than usual. (...) I think to myself that there are other people who are much worse off. (...) Health IS number one, everything else comes fourth to further down. That's what I've learned."

 

OPEN COURT

is the official podcast of FC Bayern Basketball. It is hosted by basketball expert, podcast host and commentator André "Dré" Voigt. OPEN COURT is presented and supported by FCBB main sponsor BayWa.

Since March 2021, the FCBB audio format has regularly offered in-depth, authentic and entertaining insights behind the scenes of the five-time German champion, and also deals with socially relevant topics, BBall culture and what's happening in general.

 


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