Football player survives near death on field

By David Witte / sports@losbanosenterprise.comSeptember 14, 2012 

Joseph Vera will always have souvenirs from the night Los Banos football defeated Manteca. He may not be able to see them, but they'll always be there.

Vera collapsed on the sideline during the second quarter of the Sept. 8 game in Manteca after suffering a subdural hematoma -- bleeding in the brain, according to his parents. Vera underwent an emergency craniectomy Friday night at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto to reduce the fluids in his brain and swelling.

"It's kind of surreal," Joseph's father, Jose Vera, said. "As a parent you never think of something like that happening to your kids."

Jose Vera didn't see his son collapse on the sideline -- his cousin Anthony Dominguez was the first to notice. The game stopped as emergency medical technicians administered to the unconscious teen, and the whole family rushed down to the field to help.

"The paramedics were getting their stuff ready, and they said Joseph's head was too heavy," Joseph's mother, Shannon Vera, said. "So I held his head. Another family member held his legs. I remember them asking us questions, and the athletic director coming up and asking me questions. Once it got moving, everything happened really fast."

Joseph was still unconscious when the ambulance left the field about 25 minutes later. He didn't regain consciousness until mid-day Saturday, after holes were drilled in his skull to drain fluids, then covered with titanium plates.

Another cousin, Isaac Lorenzana, drove the Veras to the hospital, where Shannon Vera said the family took up three waiting rooms. Los Banos' coaches arrived at about midnight last Friday, an hour before Vera came out of surgery.

"One of my first questions to coach Dustin Caropreso was who won. They said, 'That's not important now,' " Jose Vera said. "When he regained consciousness, the nurses gave him a pad to write on. His first question was, 'Did we win?' Every parent knows their kid."

Jose was happy to tell Joseph the Tigers won, 42-28. He's also happy to report that his son is making a speedy recovery, and that so far there is no indication of any permanent brain damage.

"He was sharp the first day, when they pulled the breathing apparatus out. He remembered every detail," Jose said. "Everything's been really positive."

Meanwhile, the Veras' phone has been ringing off the hook with well-wishers from the community -- and some from outside the community.

Manteca linebacker Stephen Ruble and his mother Kathy dropped by with an emergency kit.

"It brought us to tears," Shannon Vera said. "Everything from blankets to magazines -- everything you don't think about. They didn't get a chance to see Joseph, they just saw us."

As for Joseph, he passed a message to the community through his parents: "Go Tigers or go home."

Modesto Bee sports editor James Burns contributed to this report.

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