CHAPEL HILL – The North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) presented Hoggard High School senior, Ramon Emanuel Serrano, with the National Federation of State High School Association's (NFHS) Spirit of Sport Award at the Annual Meeting on May 2, 2019 in the Dean E. Smith Center. The NCHSAA participates in the “Spirit of Sport Award” program sponsored by the National Federation of State High School Associations. It was established to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive spirit of sport that represents the core mission of education-based athletics.
Ramon is a senior at Hoggard High School who has participated in football, basketball and track & field during his four years at Hoggard, all while maintaining a 3.3 GPA. But the remarkable part of Ramon’s story starts on July 2, 2016, when he was taken to the hospital with a severe migraine headache. Initially released from the hospital, Ramon woke up the next morning experiencing stroke-like symptoms and his parents rushed him to the Emergency Room. As doctors struggled to identify the problem, he was placed in a medically-induced coma for two weeks going through numerous spinal taps and having a probe placed in his cranial cavity to measure fluid pressure on the brain. Doctors tried all types of medications to treat the symptoms, unable to diagnose the root cause. Nothing was working.
Doctors met with Ramon’s parents, informing them that their son would most likely not live through this ordeal. Family and friends, upon hearing the news, organized a prayer vigil at Ramon’s church that night. When the vigil was over with attendees walking to their cars, everyone saw a double rainbow. People contacted the family saying God had given them a sign that everything would be alright.
As the doctors continued their search for answers, some test results were sent to Dallas, Texas, and it was discovered that Ramon had an extremely rare disease known as Eastern Equine Encephalitis. This disease affects only five to six people per year in the US. Statistics on the disease say that people that get this condition either die, become severely mentally handicapped or develop into a vegetated state. Well, as he has continued to do, Ramon beat the odds. The same doctors who had told Ramon’s parents their son likely would not live began additional treatment options. Recovery was long and difficult with Ramon having to relearn how to walk, write, feed himself, brush his teeth and do other everyday tasks most people take for granted.
Due to his extreme physical weakness following the battle with the disease, and to allow for full recovery from the symptoms, doctors instructed Ramon to take a year or two away from athletics. Ramon returned to school and became an advocate and active participant with the EC students at Hoggard. Often seen around campus being a buddy to students with disabilities. An EC Teacher at the school, Tammy Pruden described Ramon’s interaction with her students saying, “He regularly spends his lunchtime socializing and playing basketball with them. He is compassionate, patient and kind. He has even encouraged his football teammates to join him in building relationships with our EC students.”
As his body healed, Ramon returned to athletics, participating in football as a tight end, basketball as a forward and track & field where he throws discus and shot put.