Jacob Verdecia, a  6-foot, 5-inch basketball player at St. Cloud High School who almost lost his life in a car crash on Florida’s Turnpike last August, returned to school today, but on Tuesday he was reunited with the team of paramedics and doctors that helped saved his life.

In August, Jacob 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. 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 told Positively Osceola shortly after the accident.  

Paramedics from Orange County EMS rushed Jacob Verdecia to HCA Florida Osceola Hospital where doctors placed him in a medically induced coma. His progress was slow, but his family remained hopeful that he would recover, and recover he did.

“For us it’s just an everyday thing, we just had to get our job done, and it’s nice to see Jacob here doing just fine,” one of the paramedics shared on Tuesday.

The reuniting on Tuesday between Jacob, Orange County EMS, and doctors from HCA Florida in Osceola, was an emotional time, filled with gratitude and smiles.

“It was because of them, that our son is still alive today. If they weren’t able to get there in time, there would be no way he would have made it,” Jacob’s father Ed Verdecia shared.

Jacob joined in his father’s praise of the Orange County EMS team, “I can’t thank them enough. Honestly, there’s love there. They saved my life.”

“St. Cloud High School, the outpouring from them has been amazing. They called me and my husband to check on us and to do checkups on Jacob. It truly was amazing, Jacob’s mother Christina said.

For Jacob, it’s time to get back on the Bulldogs basketball court, and to remind his friends, to buckle up, and to never smoke or drink and drive.

“Be safe, and wear your seatbelt, even if it’s uncomfortable – or in the back seat,” Jacob’s family chimed in together when asked by Positive Osceola what they’d like to share with the community.