WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Doctors call him a miracle.
Ramon Serrano was a healthy high school student-athlete when a mosquito bite gave him a rare disease.
Doctors told Serrano’s parents he was going to die but almost three years later, he made a full recovery. He relearned how to walk and talk, and stepped back onto the football field to play his senior year at Hoggard High School.
The mosquito bite happened at summer camp in July 2016. He came home and had an excruciating headache and stroke-like symptoms.
“My mom was talking to me, but I couldn’t do anything to communicate back,” Serrano said. "I couldn’t move and my dad threw me over his shoulder, took me to the car and ran me to the hospital.”
After two weeks in a medically induced coma, Serrano was diagnosed him with eastern equine encephalitis, a virus that affects only about 10 people in the United States each year. Thirty percent of those diagnosed die, and most of the rest have brain damage.
“They sat my parents down and they said, ‘I’m sorry. There’s nothing we can do about your son. He’s not showing any signs of improvement and he’s in a very bad state and he’s going to die,'” Serrano said. “It’s a miracle. You always hear about miracles, but people tell me I’m a living miracle.”
Doctors said if Serrano hadn’t been in good physical shape, he may not have won this battle. Serrano credits the brotherhood of his football team and the power of prayer for saving his life.
“It made me look at football like, football saved my life," Serrano said. "I feel like I owe football something.
“If there’s a drug that can fix a disease, then it’s prayer. That’s the No. 1 medicine, I believe.”
Craig Underwood, Serrano’s football coach at Hoggard, doubles as his history teacher, and the coach said the entire team looks at Serrano as an inspiration.
“Every coach, every player is out here to win games and do those great things, but we talk a lot about it being bigger than that and seeing him take the field his senior year after seeing him in that hospital, it was one of the more powerful things I’ve seen and been a part of," Underwood said.
Serrano has the phrase “one in 180 million” engraved on his class ring to remind him of what he overcame. He is set to graduate in June and hopes to play football in college as a walk-on, possibly at East Carolina.