He went out to celebrate Halloween with friends, and now he’s fighting for his life

Mathew Papaleo suffered a serious head injury and remains in a medically induced coma after playfully wrestling with friends Friday.
Mathew Papaleo suffered a serious head injury and remains in a medically induced coma after playfully wrestling with friends Friday.

Editor’s note: The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office is investigating exactly what occurred on Oct. 28 when Mathew Papaleo was injured, according to spokesman Tony Cipolla. Two of three witnesses who spoke with the Sheriff’s Office said the incident occurred on the grounds of Tap It Brewing while a third said it occurred down the street, Cipolla said. All three witnesses gave different versions of the incident, although each of the three indicated it was playful in nature.

Mathew Papaleo went to a Halloween costume party at Tap It Brewing Co. on Friday dressed in Oakland Athletics attire looking to have a good time with his roommates and friends.

But after a fall during a friendly grapple about 10 p.m., the 21-year-old San Luis Obispo man is now fighting for his life.

Papaleo, whom his friends call “Mateo,” and a friend were playfully wrestling when they both slipped and fell. Papaleo hit the back of his head on the concrete.

“He popped up, and we asked him if he was OK,” said Paul Italiano, one of Papaleo’s roommates. “He said he was fine, but he was holding the back of his head. I knew he wasn’t OK because of how it sounded. After a couple of minutes, he went unconscious.”

Papaleo’s friends rushed him to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, where he is in a medically induced coma while recovering from two brain surgeries. Papaleo was in critical condition in intensive care as of Wednesday, said Ron Yukelson, Sierra Vista’s spokesman.

He responds to his friends’ voices with physical movements. Italiano said he has been visiting Papaleo every day and talking to him in a whisper, as suggested by hospital staff.

Papaleo is an employee of Union Bank on Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo who has been attending classes at Cuesta College, Italiano said.

To help Papaleo’s family in Fresno pay the medical bills, his roommates have set up a GoFundMe page.

The roommates feel bad about what happened, Italiano said, and they have been in contact with Papaleo’s father, whom The Tribune could not immediately reach.

Italiano said the incident is a lesson for everyone to be careful.

Italiano and Papaleo are active outdoorsmen who have hiked and mountain biked and never had any injuries from these potentially more dangerous activities.

“I’ve mountain biked and skied and crashed hundreds of times,” Italiano said. “It’s really unfortunate that something like this could cause such a serious injury.”

How to help

A GoFundMe page has been set up in Mathew Papaleo’s name to help pay for medical costs. To contribute, go to www.gofundme.com/mathew-mateo-papaleo.