Mikey, the worst injured, suffered serious brain damage. He was left in a persistent vegetative state, a condition that’s like a coma but lasts much longer. People are able to perform some basic functions, but show only limited, if any, awareness of their surroundings.
Although Mikey would never fully emerge from that state, his father was determined to give him as full a life as possible.
When Paul Cortez coached his daughter Angelica and son Tony in soccer, Mikey sat in his wheelchair on the sidelines, cheering them on.
When Tony made his high school football and basketball teams, Mikey was at every game. One year he traveled with his family to the mountain town of Lone Pine, where he sat in his wheelchair, bundled up head to toe against the frigid winter weather while his brother played.
At basketball games he’d be at courtside, and at some point in every game his brother would come over and give him a hug.
“He was aware of things going on around him by his eye contact or gestures that he made,” his father said. “He felt pain and he could feel a tickle when we tickled him and he would smile at times.”