The Bell family’s prayers have been answered.

Thomas Bell, 17-year-old son of Claremore football coach Keith Bell, underwent emergency surgery Oct. 10, and was in an unresponsive state until last weekend.

Keith Bell and his wife, Mary Ann, have been in Topeka since the night of the surgery.

“As soon as he opened his eyes, he gave his dad a thumb’s-up,” Mary Ann Bell said Tuesday.

Monday was Thomas Bell’s 17th birthday.

He wanted to celebrate with an Arby’s roast beef sandwich, and a milk shake, Mary Ann Bell said.

“He still has his sense of humor,” she said.

“He is recovering slowly, but he is recovering. His motor skills are on their way back. And that’s good.

“It’s a miracle. The doctors can’t explain it. But it’s a miracle, and the only way to explain it is the prayers we have received,” she said.

Thomas Bell will remain hospitalized through this weekend, and then will be transferred to a rehabilitation center.

“He will undergo an extensive amount of rehab,” Mary Ann Bell said. “And he wants his dad with him.”

Thomas Bell is a 5-9, 160-pound junior reserve on the Topeka West High School football team.

Coaches do not know if Bell had suffered a football-related injury.

He became ill during a practice session on Oct. 10, complaining of a headache. He went to the sideline, vomited, sat down and passed out, Topeka West coach Warren Seitz said.

Hours later, Thomas was in surgery. He was in an intensive care unit until Tuesday.

An indication of Thomas’ sudden recovery came over the weekend when he asked if his father’s Claremore Zebras had won their Friday night game against Tulsa Rogers.

Told that the Zebras lost on a last-minute field goal, Thomas Bell told his father to pass along the phrase, “Fight for your pride.”

“That has become our new motto,” Mary Ann Bell said.

Keith Bell has not been with his football team since the day of his son’s surgery. In his absence, offensive coordinator Rob Gilbreath has been in charge of the Zebras. They play at Tulsa East Central on Friday night.

Keith Bell coached at Topeka High School two years ago, and moved to Oklahoma City Millwood for the 2005 season.

He was hired by Claremore in the spring of this year. When he moved to Claremore in the summer to begin working with his new team, Thomas Bell joined him for about two weeks.

Thomas lives in Topeka.

“The outpouring of support from Claremore has been amazing,” Mary Ann Bell said last week. “We appreciate all of the kind words and prayers.”

Tuesday, she said, “All of our prayers have been answered.”

A week ago, Mary Ann and Keith Bell were concerned with how they were going to cope with the situation.

Now, she says, they are in a regrouping stage.

“Keith is coping a lot better,” she said.

“We hope all the prayers will keep coming. The prayers this last week have been welcome and wonderful. We appreciate everything the people of Claremore, and of Rogers County, have been doing for Thomas, and for the family. You just don’t know how much the prayers have helped.”

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