Some 600 students, teachers and parents gathered around the flagpole at North Forsyth High School on Thursday morning to pray for a football player who officials said remains hospitalized after collapsing Wednesday.
And it was prayer and community support that got 17-year-old Josh Haddock through brain surgery, said his mother, Natalie.
“They weren’t really expecting him to survive the surgery ... they were preparing us for him to die,” she said. “He’s doing things he wasn’t supposed to do for five days. He’s doing really great.
“Just keep on praying, because prayer is what got us this far."
Haddock went into distress about 5 p.m. Wednesday, shortly after football practice began.
Natalie Haddock said her son told a trainer he had a headache during practice.
“[The trainer] knew right away that something was wrong because his speech was slurred and he just kind of slumped over right there,” she said.
Jennifer Caracciolo, school system spokeswoman, said the trainer “went to action quickly to keep him breathing.”
“The ambulance and other officials arrived almost immediately,” she said.
After being taken to Northside Hospital-Forsyth, Haddock was transferred to the hospital’s main campus in Atlanta, where neurosurgeons operated to drain blood that was building around his brain.
Caracciolo said the bleeding on Haddock’s brain had occurred for at least a day. He did not sustain any injury at practice Wednesday.
Natalie Haddock said a hit her son took during practice Tuesday may have set off the bleeding.
“He’s had worse ones, but it was a hit in the right place, the right way ... it just happened correctly for him and it started a brain bleed, a slow brain bleed,” she said.
The school’s principal, athletic director and coaches were among the nearly 250 friends, players and family members who gathered at the hospital during the surgery.
“I know coaches talk about family and that this is a football family, but seriously ... it’s overwhelming,” she said. “There are no words to describe how incredible this whole thing has been. It’s amazing.
“It’s wonderful to see everyone loves him as much as I love him.”
North head football coach Jared Zito described Haddock as "the ultimate high-energy team member that any coach or player would want to have around them at all times."
"He is a selfless person that does everything that is asked of him and more," Zito said. "From a student athlete perspective, he has a 3.4 or higher grade-point average. He is a smart and dedicated student athlete.
"Josh is the guy that everyone wants to have on his team."
Zito said Haddock is always telling him, “Coach, just another opportunity to get better.”
As a symbol of their support for Haddock, football players will be wearing a T-shirt with that quote printed on it during their home opener Friday against Woodstock.
A fund has also been established at Regions Bank in Haddock's name.
Check back for updates at forsythnews.com or see the next edition of the Forsyth County News.