LIVING SPARK Dr. Gina Agredano saved her son Jose’s life after he took a hard ball to the chest in February of 2017. Credit: Robert Eliason

It’s often said that there is no love quite as fierce, pure or deep as a mother’s love for her child. On Feb. 16, Gina Agredano proved that her love for her son, Jose, has no limits. An incoming San Benito High junior, Jose was playing at Watsonville High in the season-finale for the Haybalers junior varsity team. Near the end of the first half, Jose took a hard ball to the chest before collapsing.

No one knew it at the time, but Jose had suffered from commotio cordis, a type of cardiac arrest that occurs as a result of a blow to the area directly over the heart during the cycle of a heart beat. Gina, who is a longtime doctor at the County of Monterey Alisal Health Center in Salinas, probably saved her son’s life by performing CPR for two minutes before paramedics arrived with a defibrillator.

“(Once a person stops breathing), CPR has to be done within the first 5 minutes (for the individual’s survival),” Gina says. “After 3 minutes it’s about a 50-50 fatality rate. After 5 minutes, the chances of survival are like 10 percent.”

Jose knows he’s fortunate to be alive. He only had to spend two nights in the hospital, and he didn’t suffer any short or long-term ailments that would’ve prevented him from continuing a sport he’s played since he was 4 years old. In fact, upon returning from the hospital, one of the first things Jose did was play soccer with his friends.

“I wasn’t supposed to play right away, but I felt good,” says Jose. “Soccer is my biggest hobby, and it means everything to me. I can’t not do it even if I try. It’s a habit that has gone to the point it’s an obsession.”

Jose, who is also a midfielder with the Hollister Strikers 17-and-under travel ball team, recently returned from Ireland after the squad played in the Irish European Invitational. What’s notable is the team raised approximately $35,000 by doing landscaping jobs for three months, coach Greg Dolan says. It was a huge accomplishment, showing just how far the program has come.

Two years ago, the Strikers played like individuals instead of a team. Since then, they’ve coalesced on the field. The Strikers have soared up the state rankings after two third-place finishes in top-flight tournaments within the last two months. Hollister took third in both the Copa Monterey in Salinas and District 2 Cup in San Carlos despite having not lost a game in either tournament.

The Strikers only finished third based on goal differential. In the Copa Monterey, they played against soccer academies, club soccer’s highest level. In the District 2 Cup, they played a team based out of Los Gatos that is sponsored by Liverpool F.C., which competes in the Premier League.

“We played against some elite teams, and had never done well against them,” Jose says. “Now we’re competing with them.”

Off the field, the Strikers are equally as cohesive. Dolan jokes that when there are team get-togethers at his house, he has a difficult time of getting everyone to leave.

“They’re always here in the swimming pool,” Dolan says. “They are a bunch of great young boys who busted their butts and earned their way to Ireland. All of the long hours of hard work they put in really built their character.”

When Dolan initially told the players about a possible trip to play in Ireland, few—if any—believed it could happen.

“I never thought we’d get this far in the journey,” Jose says. “I didn’t think it would ever come close to becoming true. But we worked hard for it, and it’s very rewarding.”

Jose made sure to credit previous Strikers coaches Carlos Hernandez and Enrique Arreola for keeping the program intact before Dolan took over two years ago.

“If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Jose says. “We did need structure and discipline, and we needed to be coached up by someone like coach Greg. But they (Hernandez and Arreola) deserve a lot of credit for how well we’re doing now.”

Sunday marks five months from when Jose collapsed on the field, his life literally hanging in the balance. Jose doesn’t remember the 20 minutes that transpired from when he collapsed to the time he was revived. For Gina, however, the incident is almost as raw and emotional today as it was in February.

“Those 20 minutes felt like years,” she says.

Gina emphasizes that she didn’t do anything heroic. Yes, she’s a doctor, and she knew how to stay calm in a life and death situation. However, Gina says everyone can learn CPR.

“It’s easy enough for everyone to do,” she says. “It’s not just at athletic events, but CPR could save a person’s life anywhere you go.”

Once a person stops breathing, the race to save his or her life is on—meaning every second counts. Gina says her immediate family members—which also include her husband, Jose Sr. and their daughter, Lauren—have always been close. Gina never took having quality time with her kids for granted. But now she has an even greater appreciation for the little things in life.

Things that might have been a minor annoyance before can be forgotten rather swiftly now.

“I love walking into my son’s room and know it’s messy,” she says. “I know he’s there. And when I come home from work, I know he’ll be there.”

Previous articleRough riding
Next articleGroups sign settlement for solar farm
Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here