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Injured Fortuna football player at Cardinal Newman game suffered stroke

Bailey Foley (Courtesy photo)

KERRY BENEFIELD,

The Fortuna High School football player who began having seizures on the sideline near the end of a game Friday night at Cardinal Newman suffered a stroke and on Monday was placed in a medically-induced coma for a second time, according to his mother.

Tara Johnson of Fortuna said after seeing an MRI taken Sunday she was unclear whether 17-year-old Bailey Foley’s stroke occurred during the football game or as a result of complications afterward.

“How does a 17-year-old have a stroke?” she asked Monday, adding that her son had never had any seizures before. “Did (the game) cause this to happen or (is it) a result of what happened?”

After reviewing game film, neither head coach could find a play or series of plays that could have injured Foley. Neither found anything that looked traumatic, both said. It’s an important distinction at a time when there is an increasing focus on some of the dangers associated with football, particularly repeated blows to the head.

Foley, a 5-foot-11-inch, 180-pound senior who plays both running back and linebacker, was in the final moments of Fortuna’s 41-18 loss to Cardinal Newman when he came to the Huskies’ sideline complaining of cramps and began having seizures.

He was taken by ambulance after the game to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital where doctors found bleeding in his brain, an indication of a possible traumatic head injury. He was put into a medically induced coma and a portion of his skull was removed. Tubes were inserted into his head to alleviate swelling in his brain.

Doctors began bringing him out of sedation Sunday to begin assessing any damage, but stopped when he developed a fever and showed signs of pneumonia. Foley was having trouble coughing, according to his mother, so a decision was made to put him back into a coma. She said the fever broke Monday.

Johnson and Bailey's father, Sage Foley, had been listening to the game on the radio when their son’s injury was announced. Fortuna head coach Mike Benbow called the parents and then rode in the ambulance with Bailey.

Johnson started the 200-mile drive from Fortuna to Santa Rosa on Friday night initially believing her son might have suffered heat stroke until a doctor reached her by phone when she was halfway to Santa Rosa and indicated the seriousness of his condition.

Sunday, she saw her son open one eye when the medications were wearing off.

“He opened it, I would say at least halfway,” she said. “His eye was kind of rolled back a little bit. It was him. It gives you hope. Any time you see any part of him moving, it’s hopeful.”

In the brief window when Foley was not sedated, doctors ran a series of tests to help assess his reactions, Johnson said.

“I guess they pinch him and twist on him pretty good,” she said. “The only part of him that he’s not moving is his right leg.”

But those tests ended when Foley developed a fever and doctors suspected pneumonia. He had to be put back under sedation at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Johnson said.

Johnson expects the real answers to come when doctors again try to bring Foley out of the coma Tuesday.

“The area where the stroke was is where people have vision issues, regaining movement,” she said.

Fortuna coach Benbow said Saturday Foley didn’t show signs of distress until he came to the Huskies’ sideline. Both he and Cardinal Newman head coach Paul Cronin said they had independently reviewed the game film.

“I watched (the game film) Friday night after I heard,” Cronin said.

“And on Saturday, I watched exclusively him on each snap. You’ve got to remember, too, it’s a high school film. It’s not like you are looking at an NFL game with 92 angles. I tried to be as thorough as possible.

“There was no collision that I saw that was ‘Wow, that’s a really, really head-to-head collision.’ It just wasn’t on there. It’s not to downplay the incident, but I didn’t see it.”

Cronin said he’s been in communication throughout the weekend with his players and their families but does not want to stray into rumor or conjecture about what happened to Foley.

“You want to be as forthcoming as possible about what they are finding,” he said before practice Monday. “I hate rumors. I think we all don’t know. I think we have to be clear.”

Johnson credited Memorial’s staff with being on top of her son’s case and communicative with the family.

“They are excellent, they really are,” she said. “They are very knowledgeable and helpful. They ask if we have any more questions.”

Johnson does have questions, but some of the answers can’t be known at this stage.

“It’s just a waiting game.”

Johnson has taken temporary residence at a hotel in Santa Rosa and is looking at a monthly rental in Rohnert Park.

Her family has taken solace in the outpouring of support from not only the Fortuna community but Sonoma County residents as well.

A GoFundMe page established Saturday had more than $27,600 in donations by Monday night.

“I just can’t believe it, all the support,” Johnson said. “At home all the kids are doing fundraisers, everyone is wearing blue.”

Johnson is hearing about Husky blue being worn around Sonoma County, too.

“The love is awesome.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”