Missouri high school football player has long road of recovery after near-fatal head injury last season

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Mo. – Directly after a playoff game in November of 2021, Mountain View-Birch Tree football player Angel Lopez collapsed on the field after a series of brutal hits.

Angel’s brother Carlos, a freshman on the team, and his sister Litzy, a Liberty Eagles cheerleader, watched in horror and disbelief as medical staff tended to Angel. Unbeknownst to them, the event would change their lives forever. 

Angel was taken via Air Evac Lifeteam to CoxHealth Medical Center South in Springfield. Angel’s mother, Susana Miranda, says her son stayed in surgery for roughly an hour and when surgeons opened his skull, it was full of blood.

“They could not explain to me how he was still alive,” Miranda said. “The moment he collapsed, they thought he was dead. They gave us 72 hours for him to live and they said it was on him, how strong he was. It is a miracle.”

The Liberty Eagles lineman remained in a coma for nearly five months before waking up in April of 2022. When Miranda arrived at the hospital, she says she could feel Angel looking at her.

But doctors and nurses disagreed with Miranda and believed Angel had no function or control of his body – that is until she proved them wrong, and showed them her son slowly moving his eyes and head as onlooking nurses rejoiced with excitement.

“They did not know if he would be okay, if he would recognize people or be like a vegetable and just be there,” Miranda told The Heartlander.

Miranda began playing movies for Angel hoping to stimulate more brain activity. Eventually, it worked, and Angel began moving both his eyes and head more steadily. Although he’s still in a wheelchair with multiple limitations, Angel is making progress each day that passes.

“Before he was discharged, they told us they did not think he would be able to move his right side anymore,” Miranda said. “But he recognizes everybody, he understands everything you tell him. He can answer yes or no with a finger, but he cannot talk. 

“He can say ‘No’ and ‘A’ but he tries to talk. He can still understand both English and Spanish well and understands everything we are telling him. He has started to move his right leg a little. He needs more therapy, but he is okay right now. He just keeps working on his right side.”

Angel now attends practices and is on the sideline for Eagles games to show his support for his hometown team and brother, who is now a sophomore. Liberty Head Coach Brock Kenaga says the team is not surprised by Angel’s comeback because they know about his heart and determination.

“Angel has made a lot of progress since his injury. He’s an amazing young man,” Kenago said. “His work ethic was always excellent. Everything he did, he wanted to be the best. We’re really proud of him and where he is going. He’s still one of our brothers and everyone thinks the world of him. This season is kind of a tribute to him.”

The Mountain View-Birch Tree community lined the streets and held a rally at the elementary school when Angel arrived back home. During the first home game of the 2022 season, the Liberty Eagles football staff recognized Angel and his number over the speakers as the crowd cheered wildly. Angel responded by waving his hand to everyone, as if to say, “Don’t fret – I’m still here.”

“Everyone went crazy, they were clapping and everything,” Angel’s mother said. “He was so happy about what they were saying about him.”

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