There’s been a somber mood at Hilmar High this week after senior Joseph Bello was seriously injured in a all-terrain vehicle accident on Saturday afternoon.
Bello, 17, was with his family, taking advantage of a four-day weekend at Pismo Beach. He was riding his quad bike at the Oceano Dunes when he was flipped off the bike coming down a hill. The vehicle landed on top of Bello, fracturing two vertebrae and leaving him without feeling or movement from his chest down.
“He was going down a drop he wasn’t aware of,” said Hilmar football coach Frank Marques, who visited Bello and his family after the accident on Saturday. “The bike dumped him over the handle bars and then the bike landed on top of him. He stayed conscious the whole time, but the bike landing on his back caused the damage.”
Bello was flown to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo. He underwent surgery on Tuesday to fuse the two fractured vertebrae.
“The doctors don’t have answers for the family yet,” Marques said. “They’re being very guarded in what they say. At this point, they just don’t know if he’ll get back to 100 percent. Either way, it’s going to be a long rehab for him. It’s not going to be something where he just wakes up and he’ll be walking again.”
The news hit hard at the high school, where Bello is a popular student. He played football, basketball and was involved in leadership on campus. Bello was named the Trans-Valley League Defensive Player of the Year after leading the Yellowjackets with 138 tackles. Bello helped lead Hilmar to a TVL title and the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 championship game against Central Catholic.
“The real tough part is the type of kid he is,” Marques said. “Nobody deserves for this to happen, but he (is) the type of kid who was the light of the campus. He was selected to play in the Lions All-Star football game and the Rotary All-Star game. He was looking forward to playing in those games and playing football next year. Now we’re worried about him walking again.”
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes group organized a prayer vigil for Bello at the high school on Sunday night and over 200 students showed up.
On Tuesday, Hilmar students made a giant banner that many of the kids signed for Bello.
“He’s a big part of our school,” said football teammate David Bisby. “He’s involved with a lot. Me and him were the strongest guys on the team. I always want to be the strongest one and he was the one in there pushing me to keep working. I didn’t want to ball behind. I was really shocked and in disbelief when I heard. It didn’t really hit me right away.”
“It’s definitely been saddening,” said Hilmar quarterback Jonathan O’Brien said. “Especially with a team like ours, where there was a lot of camaraderie. For a guy like him to get hurt and the seriousness of it. It’s not just a broken leg, this is something that could affect him the rest of his life. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”
Students have also taken to social media to send positive thoughts Bello’s way on Twitter and Facebook. There were 125 messages and 738 likes on a message about Bello on Hilmar Yellowjacket Football’s Facebook page as people shared their good thoughts with the family.
“It’s been very somber (Tuesday and Wednesday),” Marques said. “There’s no details to tell the kids. With a broken arm you can say in six weeks he’ll be fine. With something like this you can’t give any answers. That’s probably the hardest part. There’s no predictability.”
Marques did say the plan is for Bello to transfer to Santa Clara’s Valley Medical Center once he’s stable.
“If I”m betting on a kid to beat this, my money is on Joe,” Marques said. “He’s got the right kind of outlook. He’s a hard-working kid. If anybody is going to beat something like this, it’s going to be him.”