Nolan Gutenschwager woke up and looked around. He was fairly sure he was in a hospital room.
But everything else was a blur.
“I thought, ‘OK, not much time had passed? I was hoping to go back and finish the (state diving) meet,’ ” he said, admittedly in a lot of pain. “I don’t recall much – I remember I was warming up and I knew the meet was starting a couple hours later. … It was Friday when I warmed up, and when I woke up it was Sunday.
“At that point I knew something severe happened; I had no idea what.”
The Wyandotte Roosevelt diver was hooked to a ventilator when he awoke from an induced coma in the intensive care unit at DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. Days earlier, in March 2015, the then sophomore had blacked out while doing a warm-up dive for the 2015 MHSAA Division 2 state championships.
The experience proved to be life-changing for Gutenschwager, who as a senior will try to return to state for the third consecutive year when regional competition begins Thursday.
His life forever was bound that day to Grand Rapids Northview diving coach Kurt Mirandette, who helped administer CPR to Gutenschwager before suffering a massive heart attack in the wake of the revival.
Both were transferred to Holland Hospital. Gutenschwager was transferred to DeVos soon after.
“I should have died,” said Mirandette, 61, “but I was fortunate the hospital was right across the parking lot. They said it was a massive heart attack; you usually don’t survive this one.
“To have everything happen like that, the way God orchestrated everything, Nolan is a miracle.”
‘He definitely drowned’
Sam Randazzo watched as Gutenschwager performed the 2½ Pike dive. Everything seemed normal.
The release from the board. The entry into the water.
He ran to the referee’s table to submit a diving sheet, but Gutenschwager hadn’t surfaced by the time he returned.
“No one knew where he was; that was the big thing,” said Randazzo, Gutenschwager’s diving coach.
Gutenschwager isn’t certain, but he thinks he suffered a seizure after hitting the water. Randazzo rescued him from the water nearly three minutes later, spotting him at the Holland Aquatic Center pool, beneath the diving board.
“I thought ‘Oh my God,’ ” Randazzo said. “I dove in and I brought him up, and when I brought him up, all the diving coaches were around. We back-boarded him, got him out, and he wasn’t breathing, and we started CPR at that point.”
Randazzo started chest compressions. Mirandette began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
When Gutenschwager didn’t respond, the coaches shocked him with a defibrillator. He showed signs of improvement just as the ambulance arrived.
“It took about maybe 30 seconds and he had some really troubled breathing; he definitely drowned, there was no question about it, and he came back,” Randazzo said.
“We put him on a stretcher, and then we asked if we could pray over him,” Mirandette added. “We asked Him for his quick healing of his servant Nolan. He was pretty much fighting for his life, it was amazing to be a part of that.”
Mirandette soon began to feel faint. An emergency medical technician at the event detected the heart attack and immediately loaded him into another ambulance.
“Kurt’s a good guy, he’s very close to both of us now,” said Randazzo. “He feels that Nolan saved his life, because he could have been driving in a car and had that heart attack. It was the excitement of what was happening, and a doctor told him, ‘You guys saved each other’s lives.’ ”
Mentally ready to return
Gutenschwager mentally was ready to return to diving before he was capable.
A doctor ordered him to take a break. He needed to strengthen his lungs, which had been slightly damaged during the incident.
“As soon as I was out of the hospital, that was my goal, to just get back on the board,” Gutenschwager said. “For me, there was just all sorts of motivation; there was no fear or intimidation. Mentally, there wasn’t anything I did wrong. It’s not like I did the dive and hit the board; there wasn’t anything that was my fault, whatever happened was out of my control.
“I was actually excited to get back on the board when I could. I had to wait over a month, but when I got the chance, I did it.”
Gutenschwager focused on conditioning and basic jumps and entries for much of that season.
“I didn’t have him flipping or twisting for at least three months, at least that long,” Randazzo said. “He was just doing regular line-ups, easy front dives and entries. I wasn’t doing anything strenuous. I was watching him; he’d want to jump and flip and twist right away and I wasn’t ready for him to do that, for sure.”
Gutenschwager gradually rebuilt his diving repertoire as he got stronger, enough so that he returned to the state finals and placed 15th as a junior.
This year – in perhaps his final opportunity to dive competitively – Gutenschwager might be at his best.
He won the Downriver League Meet with a conference-record 495.4 points on Friday. He also won the Wayne County Championship with a score of 475. In January, he won the News-Herald Downriver Classic with a school-record 518.60 – more than 50 points above the prior meet record and more than 160 points ahead of the second-place finisher.
“It’s been a great season,” Gutenschwager said. “I did things a little bit differently, now that I was in better shape than ever. We kept diving all summer; but all my normal dives, all my hard ones. We didn’t take our foot off the pedal. We just kept building, taking on new things, learning new things. We didn’t go back down to the basics like I did in the previous year.
“By the time the season officially started in November, I was miles ahead of where I had ever started (a season) before. That really has worked to my advantage.”
Gutenschwager, Wyandotte Roosevelt’s valedictorian and National Honor Society president, has his sights set on ending the year strong.
“At the regional meet, I want to be first or second, not just because it’s a high finish, but because it will allow my coach to be on the judging panel at the state meet; and at state meet, I want to be top eight because that’s all-state,” he said. “Anything higher than that will just be better. I’m not exactly sure how high I can place, but definitely top eight to be considered all-state.”