Omar Lee was born three months early and is thankful he gets to be a student-athlete at Stratford High School. (Photo contributed by James Fulton)

Omar Lee’s family has a reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving

STRATFORD—At some point during Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day rivalry football game between Stratford and Bunnell, one of the Red Devils players is likely to find his mom in the crowd and offer up a simple wink.

She will return that wink and know that everything is alright in the world. Her world. His world. Their world.

A little more than 15 years ago, though, nothing was quite right.

In fact, at first glance, nobody could guarantee the family that anything would ever be right in their world ever again.

That was the day Omar Lee—a freshman football player at Stratford High—was born.

Lee spent this past fall on the freshman football team at Stratford.

After Thursday, he’ll turn his attention to his first high school basketball season and come spring hopes to join the Red Devils track program, as well.

During a Florida spring in the year 2004, however, the only focus was on keeping Lee and his mother alive.

“I went to a regular visit at my OB-GYN and she sent me to the hospital,” Lee’s mother Shana Serrano said. “They didn’t tell me what was going on at first.”

She was soon diagnosed with toxemia and preeclampsia, which started to cause her kidneys and liver to fail.

Things got so bad that her Connecticut-based family flew to Florida where Shana would be given her last rights.

“The day I turned six months (pregnant), they gave me a shot,” she said. “I had Omar the next day. I had an emergency C-section, and flat-lined a few times.”

Born three months early, and weighing in at one pound, 14 ounces, Omar Lee’s future, and his mother’s, was in the hands of some Fort Myers-based doctors and whatever higher power was out there to help.

Shana Serrano holds her son Omar Lee shortly after his birth in 2004. (Contributed photo)

“I was so scared I was going to lose him,” Serrano said. “I didn’t even see him for 48 hours. I couldn’t touch him. I just had to look at him in the incubator.”

For three months, Lee’s home was the hospital where he was born.

Doctors prepared the family for all the things that could go wrong, that Lee could develop cerebral palsy and be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life; maybe have troubles talking or even breathing.

“It’s kind of scary knowing all that,” Lee said. “I don’t even feel like that’s me. It’s kind of insane. But I feel thankful.”

Lee and his mother survived the ordeal and soon enough her son grew into your typical little boy.

A former volleyball and basketball player at Harding, Shana Serrano and Omar’s birthfather were both athletes, so it seemed natural for her son to gravitate to athletics.

“Omar is a very fast runner,” she said. “The goal is education first. Sports are second. If he gets injured playing sports, he’s got to have that education to fall back on.”

Six years ago, the family moved back to Connecticut.

Shana said Omar hit a growth spurt this summer and he’s hit 5-foot-11, 150 pounds.

And every time she gets to watch her boy take the field, or hit the court, or just run down a track, she knows how lucky she and her family are this Thanksgiving.

“For me, I definitely didn’t do it on my own,” she said. “There is a higher power somewhere and he’s watching over Omar. I’m blessed and I’m happy he’s having fun doing it. I’m happy to see him as this healthy kid.”

At some point, Omar will spy his mother up in the stands and offer up a wink.

“If he winks at me, I know he’s good and when I wink back, he knows I’m good,” Serrano said. “We have a really good relationship. But we can’t stop here. We’ve got keep pushing forward.”

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