Hill-Murray family grateful for outpouring of support during son’s recovery

| December 19, 2018 | 0 Comments

Senior Zach Zarembinski sits for a photo Dec. 11 at Hill-Murray School in Maplewood with his parents, Dan and Tracy. He hopes to return to classes in January. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Football and faith connections were natural reasons for Academy of Holy Angels senior twins Mitch and Jack Hendrickson to donate their recently-won charity check to support Zach Zarembinski, a senior at Hill-Murray School in Maplewood who has been recovering from a brain hemorrhage suffered during an Oct. 27 football game.

“We are called to help one another, support one another,” said Jack, who played tight end for Holy Angels in Richfield. “It’s just the right thing to do.”

Mitch and Jack were two of six recipients of the 2018 Vikings Community Captains Award in early December, which included $1,000 to donate to charity. The Hendrickson brothers’ donation is one of the latest for the Zarembinski family in the past two months. Zach and his family have received droves of prayer support along the way, too.

“It’s been very overwhelming, as far as the amount of people that have reached out to us,” said Dan Zarembinski, Zach’s father. “I just tell people it was truly a miracle.”

Zach, who played nose tackle for the Hill-Murray Pioneers, took himself out of the game against Johnson Senior High School in St. Paul before collapsing on the sideline. Emergency medical personnel immediately attended to him, and they transported him to Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Zach had surgery and was placed in a medically-induced coma for 13 days to help his brain heal.

Zach returned home Nov. 13, but a long road to recovery remains. A couple weeks ago, he went back to school and is receiving academic help. He hopes to return to classes after the Christmas break and attend college next year.

“I can’t sleep a lot. I get headaches throughout the day,” Zach said of the effects of brain trauma.

Signs of support and prayers poured in for the Zarembinski family during Zach’s stay in the hospital and beyond. It came from individuals, prayer groups, churches, Catholic and public school communities — many of whom the Zarembinski family had never met. Visitors were frequent.

“When I woke up [from the coma], I kind of at first realized it through all the cards and the letters,” Zach said of the support. “Since I’ve gotten out of there [the hospital], I just keep realizing how many people prayed for me.”

Six Catholic high schools, including Hill-Murray, offered their respective All Saints Day Masses for Zach and his family. Other schools have remembered Zach in the petitions at Mass or in a prayer before Mass. Students at many of those schools wore green, the awareness color for traumatic brain injury, in honor of Zach. St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Little Canada, where Zach attended middle school, also offered a Mass for Zach, and the students wore green.

“Mass is the most powerful prayer we can offer, and when we can be united in that, offering our intentions for a particular cause, … we can’t overestimate the power that prayer has,” said Father Kevin Manthey, Hill-Murray chaplain who celebrated that school’s Mass.

“You could feel it, almost,” said Tracy Zarembinski, Zach’s mother, about the prayers.

Father Manthey and St. Charles Borromeo Fraternity Father Daniele Scorrano, also a chaplain at Hill-Murray, were among those who visited Zach at Regions. Benedictine Sister Linda Soler, who serves as a spiritual coach for the football team, made regular visits. The Hill-Murray community’s support for Zach was impressive, she said. Her fellow sisters at St. Paul’s Monastery in Maplewood prayed for him, too.

“Prayer was the priority here at Hill-Murray,” said Sister Linda, who primarily serves as the school’s student service coordinator. “I believe this incident has made the community stronger. There was a lot of love and a lot of concern.”

Sister Linda and Head Football Coach Pete Bercich held a prayer service for the players and their parents to pray for Zach. Bercich said the players also took the initiative in many additional efforts to support Zach, including a fundraiser at a nearby Chick-fil-A.

Bercich’s youngest son, Ryan, plays long snapper at Holy Angels and helped to forge part of the football connection the Hendrickson twins had to Zach. They received the Vikings award

Dec. 16 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis for their leadership on the field, performance in the classroom and involvement in the community.

Meanwhile, Zach attended an unrelated event at the Vikings’ stadium Dec. 15 as an honorary all-star for the Minnesota High School All-Star game.

“It was really amazing to me how the other teams, mainly the teams that we played against, … how they all reached out and asked to see what they could do to help support Zach,” Pete Bercich said.

Other support efforts included a charity volleyball event organized by the Hill-Murray student council. They raised $730 with 200 participants.

“We could not be happier to have Zach back smiling in the halls and giving everyone high fives,” said Alyson Steichen, a Hill-Murray senior and student council member, who helped organize the volleyball event.

Zach, who attends Eagle Brook Church in White Bear Lake, said the support and the journey reaffirmed his faith. He said it’s been growing since his freshman year at Hill-Murray.

“And then I go and have this injury {happened} to me, and I wake up from it and go, ‘Mom, God’s real,’” Zach said.

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