Ruben Casas will return home to Ceres on Sunday.
To a house that’s so familiar to him; to a life that’s anything but.
Casas, 18, who played for the baseball team at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, suffered a severe spinal injury on May 4 that has left him paralyzed from the chest down.
The 2013 Central Valley graduate and former baseball MVP of the Western Athletic Conference dove into the shallow end of a swimming pool and compressed the C6 and C7 vertebrae in the lower part of his neck. He’s currently at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
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“He gets to come home Sunday for an eight-hour trial,” said Casas’ mother, Melanie, who works for the Stanislaus County Assessor’s Office. “And if everything goes well, he’ll get to come home to stay on (Tuesday).
“I’ve had friends ask me, ‘How are you going to bathe him?’ I really don’t know. We’re just taking it one step at a time.”
That’s one of the many challenges facing the Casases – their house must be modified to accommodate life with a quadriplegic. In addition to renovations, equipment is needed, such as a tilt table that will help Casas get upright and a wheelchair; there are recovery-based therapies ahead, medical bills, and so much more.
But the response from friends, family and the community has been “overwhelming,” according to Melanie Casas.
A Facebook page has been established (search for “Pitching in for Ruben” on the site) to help make people aware of his situation and the family’s needs. A fund-raising account at HelpHopeLive.org (search for “Ruben Casas” on the site) has been established. Also, a fund-raiser dinner is slated for Aug. 22 at Bill and Triana Berryhill’s Ceres home, 1912 E. Taylor Road.
Casas and his friends were swimming at a private residence on May 4 and the group decided to dive into the pool. Casas dove into a shallow portion of the pool and slammed his head into the pool’s bottom, breaking his neck.
Casas admitted that the group had been drinking earlier in the afternoon, but a blood test ruled out alcohol as a factor in the accident. He was taken to Sierra Vista Regional Medical center in San Luis Obispo, where a nine-hour surgery was performed.
Though the prognosis was bleak, and remains so, there have been crumbs of positive news. The spasms that often plague quadriplegics, caused by the upper motor neuron lesions associated with brain and spinal cord injuries, haven’t affected Casas. Quadriplegics can have spasms so severe they can be dislodged from a chair. It’s not much, but at this point, any positive sign is a victory.
“I’m doing good,” Casas said Wednesday. “I’m pretty positive most of the time. I have my little five minutes of sadness every once in a great while, but I stay pretty positive thanks to my family and by how bad I want to try to want to walk again.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone for their support. Even a single prayer, that means a lot. Thank you.”
Casas was studying to become an emergency medical technician and had plans to join the U.S. Air Force after graduation and hoped to eventually become a police officer. He’s already thinking about studying aeronautical engineering or astronomy.
“I just want to try do something that can help somebody,” he said.
For information about the Aug. 22 fund-raiser, contact Central Valley athletic director Greg Magni at firstname.lastname@example.org or Triana Berryhill at email@example.com or Tracy Long at firstname.lastname@example.org.