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Riverhead football player stricken by heat stroke during practice is improving but faces long recovery, coach says

Nikolas Visco, the Riverhead High School football player who collapsed on the field from apparent heat stroke following a practice Monday morning, is making progress at Stony Brook University Hospital.

“His prognosis is better, though he’s not out of the woods yet,” Blue Waves head coach Leif Shay said this afternoon. “He’s still looking at a long recovery.”

He is listed in critical but stable condition and doctors are taking him off machines and pulling him out of sedation, Shay said. He was placed on a ventilator, a feeding tube and dialysis, all intended to minimize stress on his body, the coach said.

“His parents want everyone to know they are grateful for all the support shown from everyone in the community,” Shay said.

“If you want to send get well wishes, they ask that you leave a video message on a special ‘get well’ Facebook page  my wife made,” Shay said. (See facebook.com/GetWellNik.) The family will show Nikolas the messages as soon as he is able to watch them.

Nikolas, 16, a junior trying out for the varsity team this year, collapsed just as practice ended Monday. The diagnosis was heat stroke, Shay said. The boy’s body climbed to a reported 108 degrees, according to an article in the Riverhead News-Review, which first reported the incident.

“They still don’t know what caused it, or why his body temperature rose that rapidly,” Shay said.

“There were no heat alerts that morning. We practiced in helmets and shorts, not full gear. Practice was from 7:30 to 10 a.m. and for the first hour we had a meeting, so it was really only an hour and a half. It was a bizarre thing,” Shay said.

It’s been an agonizing week for the Blue Waves coaches and the entire team. Shay and his assistant coaches have been keeping vigil at Nikolas’ bedside. Nothing like this has ever happened during Shay’s tenure as football coach, and it’s scary. “You never want to see one of your kids get hurt on the field,” he said.

Blue Waves trainer Chris Hildebrand and Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps “deserve a lot of credit,” Shay said.

“The ambulance was there so fast it must have been around the corner.”

RVAC transported the player to Peconic Bay Medical Center, which transferred him to Stony Brook, where he remains. There’s no timetable yet for his release, Shay said.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website. Email Denise.