Mitchell Boals didn’t know Dr. Jason Klein or Bellin athletic trainer Julie Phelps before Friday night.
He can thank them for the rest of his life, since they helped save it.
The D.C. Everest football player has been at St. Vincent Hospital since sustaining a serious internal injury in the closing minutes of Bay Port’s 19-17 win over Everest in a first-round playoff game in Suamico on Friday.
The 5-foot-10 junior defensive back was injured on the pivotal play of the game, when Bay Port wide receiver Steve Minzlaff jumped up to make a 34-yard catch in traffic and came down on Boals.
Boals didn’t get up right away, but he figured he just had the wind knocked out of him. He sat out the next play in which Bay Port scored a touchdown, but returned to attempt to block the extra point.
He came off the field after the play and started coughing up blood, but there still were discussions held about him boarding the bus after the game to head home with his team.
The D.C. Everest athletic trainer requested Klein check out Boals, and Klein and Phelps agreed Boals needed to get to a hospital.
It was a wise choice.
It was determined later that had Boals made the trip home with his team or even just to the hospital in Wausau, he likely would have died on the way.
Boals had a CT scan and X-rays done at St. Mary’s Hospital, where it was discovered he had significant internal bleeding. Doctors compared the hit he took with being in a car accident.
Boals was transported to St. Vincent and a trauma surgeon immediately operated on him. They ended up removing a quart of blood from his abdominal cavity.
“Going into surgery, I knew something wasn’t right,” Boals said from his hospital room on Sunday. “We all knew I had been badly injured. When they had me laying down on the operating table, I had to admit to the surgeons that I was scared.
“I’m extremely fortunate. I feel extremely lucky that me and 12 other people from the football team between the coaching staff and the medical staff. … we almost put me on that bus. That is living or dying.”
Boals has received a tremendous amount of support since the injury. When he checked his cell phone on Saturday, he was shocked at the amount of messages left for him.
Bay Port athletic director Otis Chambers visited Boals on Sunday, and a few players also may visit. He could be released from the hospital and allowed to return home by Wednesday.
His injuries should be healed within two months, although Boals said it will be baby steps in his recovery. Breathing is difficult, and he can’t even cough.
“I just would like to tell everybody thank you for all the support and everybody’s prayers and thoughts,” Boals said. “It really means a lot. I’ve had people texting me and messaging me the past couple days, and it has really helped a lot.”
As for football, Boals has no fear about returning to the field.
“I’ll be back next year, for sure,” he said. “I’ll be ready to go.”
svenci@greenbaypress gazette.com and follow him on Twitter @scottvenci