A serious genetic condition affecting Moises Martinez — described as a tangle of veins in the back of his head that doctors called “a bomb waiting to go off” — was unknown to the healthy 24-year-old until a week ago.
The Fowler man, who plays soccer for the Fresno FC junior team and is on the training roster for the main Fresno Foxes, is now fighting for his life in a hospital at UC San Francisco.
Martinez is unable to breathe on his own and is on life support, said his fiancée, Juanita Barrita.
Martinez is also an expectant father. Barrita said she is two months pregnant.
A GoFundMe donation account was set up online to help his family with medical expenses. It’s raised more than $13,000 over the past week and is the only source of income for Martinez’s family at this time. Martinez’s father, who works at an automotive collision repair shop, has taken time off work to stay at his son’s bedside.
The Fresno Foxes are pushing to get their player more support.
“A community can gauge its strength when one of its members is in deep need,” wrote the Fresno Football Club in an Instagram post Monday.
Barrita said Martinez fell suddenly ill Oct. 16, while working on a vehicle with his dad. By the end of that Tuesday, he had been flown from Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno to UCSF, where he underwent emergency surgery.
Barrita said there was a malformation in his head that caused an aneurism and ruptured vein. Doctors drilled holes in his head to remove blood and fluid, and removed the bottom half of his skull. His ruptured vein was repaired, but his brain stem was damaged. Surgeons told his family they did everything they could to help him.
“They’re not saying he’s brain dead, but they’re not saying there is no brain activity,” Barrita said. “They just can’t tell us what to expect within the next couple of days or the next couple weeks.”
Barrita said Martinez is not in a coma or sedated but he’s not responsive. He’s also suffering from pneumonia, caused by an infection in his lungs, which has caused bouts of fever.
Barrita said doctors don’t believe soccer affected his condition, which is genetic.
Barrita said Martinez qualified for emergency Medi-Cal at UCSF, but that paperwork wasn’t filled out during his stay at CRMC. The family doesn’t know how much medical expenses will cost.
He’s been living in the central San Joaquin Valley since he was in middle school. Martinez came to the U.S. from Mexico with his family when he was 3 years old.
Milton Blanco, a Fresno FC player who also does coaching and promotions for the team, said Martinez “would do whatever for his family.”
Blanco said Martinez brought home additional income for his parents by selling traditional Mexican ice cream, bolis, that his mother made for teammates at soccer practice.
Blanco described Martinez as an “overall great guy” and striker who scored many goals and did whatever the team needed.
Assistant coach Jose Luis Delgadillo said Martinez could play any position he was put into. He did it while staying humble, positive and respectful. Delgadillo called him a “light” who was a pleasure to be around.
“Apart from being a great soccer player … He was always willing to work hard and he would always be smiling,” Delgadillo said.
Martinez is a forward and midfielder for the Fresno Football Club’s under-23s team — a non-professional team competing within the USL’s Premier Development League, which requires the majority of players to be 23 or younger.
“It’s the league that Fresno Fuego used to play in, but we changed the name to Fresno FC U23s after Fresno FC purchased the brand,” said Angel Moreno, a spokesman for the Fresno Football Club.
Fresno Football Club, the Valley’s first pro soccer club that plays at Chukchansi Park, is a member of the United Soccer League, one division below Major League Soccer.
Martinez played for West Hills College in Lemoore from 2014 to 2016 before joining the Fresno Fuego team in 2016. In 2017, he was part of Broken Drum, a seven-player team that won the Fresno qualifier of the U.S. Neymar Jr. Five challenge, winning a trip to the National Championship in Miami.
Barrita is praying for Martinez’s recovery. She said he has an “uplifting spirit” and describes him as outgoing, funny, genuine and “always laughing.”
“We’re hoping there’s a miracle,” Barrita said, “that there’s something in him that keeps pushing, keeps fighting.”