The football stands were filled with St. Cloud Bulldog fans Friday night to welcome back High School football, but after the game, Tom Gannarelli field was filled with those coming to together to show their support and love for Jacob Verdecia and his family, after the 16-year-old boy was seriously injured in a car crash on Florida’s Turnpike earlier in August and is now fighting to recover in the hospital.

Jacob, who is a junior at St. Cloud High School and a member of the St. Cloud Bulldog Basketball team, was riding in the backseat of a car with his friends on a rainy night on the Turnpike when the driver lost control of the car, crossed over four turnpike lanes before striking hard into a guardrail.

The force of the collision caused Jacob, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt at the time, to quickly move forward and into the front seat of the car where he sustained serious injuries, possibly from striking the windshield, dashboard, or airbag, according to Jacob’s family.

“My son, is 6’5″ and was riding in a small Honda Civic. We believe he was uncomfortable sitting in the back seat, so he took seatbelt off. I would say that it might be uncomfortable to have a seatbelt on sometimes, but it’s much more uncomfortable to be laying in a hospital bed in the ICU,” Jacob’s mother Christina said.  

Jacob was initially placed into a medically induced coma at the hospital as he suffered serious brain injuries, but has been showing signs of improvement, showing smiles, squeezing family member hands, moving his feet, and sticking out his tongue. He is now mouthing words and responding to requests by doctors like hand movements.

He has also been on a ventilator, but doctors are adjusting the settings so Jacob can begin breathing more on his own.

On Sunday, the hospital brought a large chair into the ICU room for Jacob so he can sit up in to get out of the bed for a few hours a day, which his dad Ed said he was able to do yesterday. “It tired him out a bit yesterday, but after he gets some rest today, he should feel a bit better again tomorrow.”

Jacob’s dad shared that while Jacob was sitting in the chair, speech therapists attached a small tube into the tracheotomy system so he can better communicate with his family. “It was great to hear Jacob’s voice again, it was a big day for us.”

The family is asking for continued prayer for Jacob as he has a long road ahead of him, but doctors are telling the family that overall, Jacob is doing well.

“Driving is a privilege. It’s something you earn. We want to make people aware. There is no need to speed, and when it’s raining just slow down,” Jacob’s dad added.

The driver and other passengers in the car received only minor injuries.

The family wants to convey their thanks to everyone who has been praying and wishing Jacob and their family their best, but they also want continue to encourage everyone to remember to wear seatbelts. Positively Osceola will continue to pray for Jacob and his family and bring updates for the family as they become available.

If you’d like to donate to the family, you can do so here:

Photo Cred: Tina Kading