Adrian Padilla spent nearly three weeks in a hospital in San Luis Obispo recovering from a concussion he suffered in a football game on the road in the second week of the season.
He needed surgery to reduce the swelling in his brain and spent 19 days in a strange hospital, 150 miles away from his home in Oxnard. He needs at least one more operation to complete the brain surgery that was started more than a month ago.
“Those 19 days were the longest days of my life,” Padilla said. “When I was finally released, the first thing I went was to the high school to be with my family. I couldn’t see all of them, but the next day I went back to practice and I was with everyone. I just felt normal being back.”
Mark Beckham, the Oxnard football coach, designated Padilla as an honorary team captain for Friday night’s game against Ventura. He walked out to midfield with three of his teammates for the opening coin flip. He needs to wear a helmet to protect his head, which is still healing after the weeks of operations on his skull and brain.
Instead of the traditional handshakes that are exchanged between the opposing players after the coin flip, the Ventura players hugged Padilla. It was clear Padilla’s return was not only an inspiration to his teammates, but to all the football players and coaches at the game.
Padilla is lucky to be alive. He will probably never play football again, certainly not with the Oxnard football team. He is a senior, and was learning a new position at outside linebacker.
In the game against San Luis Obispo, his coaches sent him on a blitz and hit his head on the play and walked to the sidelines. He told his coaches he was hurt and took himself out of the game, and a coach told him to sit down on the bench. Padilla collapsed on the sideline.
He says the next thing he remembers is waking up in a hospital four days later.
He was diagnosed with a concussion and Padilla said he never experienced an injury of that severity while playing football. Doctors cut out a piece of his skill to help reduce the swelling in his brain, then implanted the piece in the lining of his stomach for preservation. Doctors will complete the surgery and replace the piece of skull in December.
Padilla was released from the hospital on Oct. 2 and returned home to Oxnard. He went to football practice the next day, but arrived late when most of his teammates had gone home. He said being back home gave him a chance to regain some normalcy in his life and he was happy to be out of the hospital.
“It sucked. I was bored. I just wished I was with the team,” Padilla said. “These guys are my family. I wanted to be with them.”
The Oxnard football team lost its first two football games, including the game against San Luis Obispo. Before Oxnard’s third game against Buena, Padilla’s teammates signed a football and sent it to him in the hospital with the promise of winning the next game.
Oxnard was down 35-28 in the fourth quarter and scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes to win the game, 42-35. Grant Weiss scored on two long runs to complete the comeback and give Oxnard its first win of the season.
“After that game, it was just amazing,” Padilla said. “Friday night, they showed what they could do.”
Oxnard followed with another win against Downey while Padilla was still in the hospital. He was hoping to witness his team win in person against Ventura, but Oxnard lost, 42-7. The Yellowjackets open Pacific View League play on Friday night against Hueneme.
Even though Padilla won’t play in the game, his coach said he will make a difference for his teammates.
“He played hard. He was one of those type of players,” Beckham said. “We have a family-type atmosphere at Oxnard. It’s been an incredible experience. He’s meant a lot to the team.”