As he lay on his back beside the dirt road 18 months ago, Zach Round knew he had taken a bad spill on his mountain bike, he just didn’t realize how much those few seconds would change his life.
A few hours later, doctors would tell Round he didn’t sustain any major injuries from the crash, but they discovered a large tumor on his brain stem.
Suddenly, things like playing football and rugby at JSerra High School, or getting back on his mountain bike, weren’t in the picture.
“My initial reaction was, ‘Am I gonna die? Because I don’t want to die yet,’” Round told Inside Edition last month. “My other main concern was, ‘When they were done with this operation, will I be the same?’”
During the first surgery to remove the tumor, a nerve was nicked, causing partial paralysis on his right side. He would undergo 12 more surgeries while also battling double vision, bacterial meningitis, kidney stones, hydrocephalus and other infections.
“He has been so remarkable,” his mother, Lynette, told ABC-7. “Never once has he complained. He just pushed through, pushed through, pushed through.”
For several months, he was wheelchair bound. He eventually grew strong enough for a walker, and then ditched as well.
“It was a lot of hard work,” he told Inside Edition. “I worked on it for four or five hours every day, just worked really hard at it because I just hated sitting around and watching everybody else work hard. I wanted to work hard myself.”
Round reached a major milestone in June when he returned to football practice as an offensive lineman for the Lions. He’ll be a senior this fall and hopes to contribute to the team, which is expected to be one of the best in Orange County.
“I did OK,” Round said of his first practice. “I was a little rusty, and I got beat a couple times, I’m not going to lie, but I was really excited.”
Pat Harlow, who’s beginning his second season as head coach at JSerra, told ABC-7 he liked what he saw from Round. Harlow will have some holes to fill up front following the recent graduation of Jake Parks, Jack Bolduc and Ryan May.
“There’s still a lot of recovery to go on, but if he’s progressing like he is and continues to do that I still think he has a chance,” Harlow said.
Taking a chance is what ultimately led to the discovery of the brain tumor.
Round had a Go-Pro camera mounted to his helmet as he raced down a dirt trail in South Orange County. He blew past a friend holding another camera alongside the jump and launched in the air.
Round’s bike came up short of the landing spot and hit the raised side of the dirt road, causing him to go over the handlebars and tumble violently. The Go-Pro kept rolling the entire time, eventually freezing on a shot of the blue sky.
“I wasn’t really scared, necessarily, I was like, ‘Well, I ate it,’ “Round said. “When they had to call the helicopter, I was like, ‘Well, I can get up. I can probably walk away.’ “
Round chose to remain on his back, unaware of the challenges ahead.
Getting back on the football field was just one more barrier to conquer.