VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — On Saturday, students at Cox High School will walk across the graduation stage and into adulthood, but one young man — described as one of the toughest on the football field — won’t be making that graduation walk.
“Everybody will be thinking about him,” said Cox High School Senior Brett Madden. “Everybody’s praying about him and everybody loves him.”
As seniors get ready to walk across the stage in two days, Donnell Story is confined to a hospital bed.
“This thing came upon us real quick,” said Cox High Football Coach Bill Stachelski.
“Seeing my brother hurting like that hurts me as a person too,” Madden said.
After weeks of feeling ill, doctors found a mass around Story’s heart. It was endocarditis, a bacterial infection, and it spread to his lungs and kidneys. He’s been in ICU for a week, fighting for his life.
“Donnell has a huge heart,” Stachelski said. “When he smiles, he lights up a room. He’s one of the most popular kids at the school.”
All week, friends and teachers have kept him company at hospital. They say it was hard to see him lying there with wire and tubes.
“It’s like you want to reach out and give him a big hug and tell him it’s going to be okay,” Stachelski said.
Story was an offensive and defensive lineman for the football team. On the field, students cheered for him. Now the cheers have turned to prayers.
“My heart sank, to be honest,” Madded said. “I know Donnell. Always seems like he has the worst of luck, but he works hardest to fix that.”
“The sign in our locker room says, ‘one family, one destiny,’” Stachelski said. “Donnell is part of our family, and we tried to make him feel like family this week.”
Story had his cap and gown delivered Wednesday to the hospital. There will be an empty seat reserved for him at graduation, and his name will be called. He’ll be able to watch the ceremony on a live stream from his hospital bed.
“We are going to recognize him as if he was there, because I know he will be there in spirit,” Stachelski said.
Story is scheduled to go to Palmetto Prep Academy in South Carolina and play football this fall.