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Ten-year-old Victor Jr. sat up – as straight as he could – in the chair of his fifth-floor room of the Leon S. Peters Burn Center. Wraps covered most of his burned body – every finger, both arms, both legs and much of his head and face.
His 7-year-old brother Carlos was next door, unable to get out of bed, with most of his face and body wrapped in bandages.
Nurses had been telling the brothers they were going to have special company on Aug. 17. But they had no idea who – until 27 members of the Fresno Pacific University men’s soccer team spilled into the hallway of the burn center, armed with jerseys, soccer balls, T-shirts and posters for the boys.
The two brothers, as well as their father, came to Community Regional Medical Center after being critically burned in a house fire shortly after midnight on July 24 in Arvin, just southeast of Bakersfield.
Victor Medina Sr., who remains in critical condition at the Peters Burn Center, helped wife Yadira Munoz and their 2-year-old daughter Anadelie Medina escape through a bedroom window.
The father then ran back for Carlos Medina and carried him to safety before going back in to rescue Victor Medina Jr., but Carlos followed his father back in, news reports said, and the three were severely burned.
“When I saw them the first time I said, ‘Oh my God, they’re not going to survive,’” Munoz said.
The family was transported from a hospital in Bakersfield to Community Regional Medical Center, which houses the only burn and Level 1 trauma centers between Los Angeles and Sacramento. Carlos is in serious condition and Victor Jr. is in good condition, but still recovering.
The visit by the Fresno Pacific soccer team was orchestrated by Sandra Yovino, registered nurse and manager of the burn center and pediatrics services. After finding out the boys were such big soccer fans, she contacted Fresno Pacific coach Jaime Ramirez, who was glad to let his players cut one of their three-a-day practices short.
“Our boys are going to forget about training camp,” Ramirez said. “But they’ll never forget about this.”
Players walked back and forth, from room to room, to visit with the brothers, autographing everything in sight and visiting with the boys. Victor Jr. even showed off his kicking ability to the players, booting his new autographed ball right past one of them for a goal.
Both boys play soccer and are fans of Chivas Guadalajara and Chivas USA. Munoz said Victor Jr. bites all of his nails while watching the games. When asked what he needs after the fire, Victor Jr.’s first thought was, “soccer shoes, soccer clothes,” he said.
“It’s very important for all of us to be here,” said senior forward Amaury Nunes, a native of Brazil who also plays for the Fresno Fuego. “When Jaime mentioned this to us as an option, we knew we should be there. We know we can make them feel just a little bit better.”
Each of the players took the time to speak one-on-one with the brothers before leaving, some fighting back tears after giving their words of encouragement.
Nunes looked into Carlos’ eyes, putting his arms up and clinching his fists as he told the youngster to stay strong.
Nunes said both of the boys looked at him and did their best to give a smile.
“It’s just amazing to feel something like that.”
This story was reported by Eddie Hughes. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.