When Stacey Barella sat down to learn that her son’s seizures were being caused by a more serious issue called carotid artery disease, a condition that cuts off blood flow to the brain, the thought was quite scary. However, despite the intimidating diagnosis, the mother of two was later pleasantly surprised when she discovered the outpouring of support her son Trevor would receive from the Rancho Cotate High School varsity football team.
Trevor Barella has been a hydration technician for a little over a year for Rancho’s varsity football team. He has a long-standing history of health issues and also has down syndrome. Yet, he didn’t let that stop him from rooting on his favorite team with Cougar pride and when the team offered him the position he couldn’t say no.
The number one Cougar fan would make sure the team stayed hydrated during summer practices in the hot sun and would also come out onto the field during games to run water to teammates.
Barella says her son was thrilled to get a chance to help out on the team.
However, when Trevor started having epileptic episodes at school his health took a turn for the worse and he continued to have seizures.
“He started having some episodes that appeared to be sort of fainting/seizures… This year, though, his health started getting much worse and they were struggling to find out what was happening,” Barella said. “And then we finally got a diagnosis about a month ago that was much more serious than we thought it was going to be.”
After learning of the diagnosis, it was determined that Trevor will have to undergo a major surgery set for August 7.
Neurosurgeons at Stanford Hospital will have to take another artery from his brain to re-correct blood flow to the right side of his brain.
The whole of the Rancho football team has already shown support and strength for Trevor, yet, team members took their support a step forward and organized a support/birthday party for him earlier this month with t-shirts sporting the hashtag #trevorstrong, signed jerseys and footballs.
“We threw a huge birthday party for him since his surgery is next week on Tuesday and I wanted him to have some fun stuff to do before that,” Barella said, her voice breaking with emotion. “Pretty much two-thirds of the football team was able to be here. They brought him a shirt, signed a football and played games with him...”
Barella says throughout the season, “There was a bond that I was totally unprepared for seeing happening.”
Prior to Trevor’s diagnosis, the team also worked to connect with Trevor by making sure he was all right, texting him, inviting him over to play video games and welcoming his family onto the field to oversee his health.
“For me that support for him is amazing and we are really grateful to be a part of that community,” Barella said. “This is all coming from their hearts and they are all a really great group of kids.”
Barella says she is glad culture has changed around people with disabilities — instead of being shunned or not treated the same, more people are treated with equal respect and are included in activities.
She says in years past when Trevor was in elementary school he sometimes had difficulty making friends, but now that has changed with the Cougar community embracing him with open arms and encouragement for the road ahead.
“For me as Trevor’s mom, it just makes me so happy to see how happy they make him and how much they accept him and include him,” Barella exclaimed.
When asked if there were any fundraising efforts underway for Trevor’s surgery, Barella said luckily their insurance plan covers the entire operation, another facet to be thankful for.