On the night of Nov. 19, 2019, Golden Valley High School student Jesus Ortiz was at home when he suddenly experienced a severe headache, began to vomit and fell unconscious.
Little did his family know, at that moment, that Ortiz had suffered a brain hemorrhage that would result in him going into a coma. While he officially exited the coma shortly after, his mother said it was more like two years — as he was left unresponsive, unable to move or understand the world around him during that time.
However, on Thursday, Ortiz walked up to the stage at College of the Canyons’ Cougar Stadium and received his high school diploma. The following day, he was able to clearly articulate his experience in an interview with The Signal.
“I felt really accomplished and just really incredibly proud of myself,” said Ortiz. “I mean, after everything I went through to come back to school after having a stroke, and trying hard and finally being able to graduate after I missed my first graduation, it felt really proudful, honestly. It was exciting. I’m really just proud of myself.”
As he should be. Ortiz had to reteach himself how to walk, talk, move and live life again.
“I was practically reborn,” said Ortiz. “Both metaphorically and literally.”
Sal Frias, principal at Golden Valley, said that in his 30 years in education, he’s experienced many tragic things — but he’s never seen anything like what Ortiz went through to stand on that stage on Thursday.
Before the pandemic, Frias said he believed Ortiz’s story would be another tragic experience, as the prognosis “was not good.” When he saw Ortiz on Thursday, he said the experience was akin to “seeing a ghost.”
“He worked his tail off and came to school, took care of business and, you know, when we think about what he’s endured and coming back from a stroke …. It was just a reflection of what a special young man he was and how resilient he was,” said Frias. “(It’s) a testament to his desire to want to graduate high school.”
Ortiz said he would like people to know that determination and his will to live, should be a reminder for people to not quit — no matter the circumstances.
“I would love for people to know is just never give up,” said Ortiz. The most cliche thing that I can think of right now is just don’t give up.It doesn’t matter how hard things get, there’s still always a second chance. Something else that’s great — is to not allow anyone to tell you that you can’t. Because anything’s possible.”
Ortiz said his plan after high school is to become more involved in his church, St. Clare Catholic Church.