It was believed only a “miracle” could save Rodney Guin in the aftermath of a heart attack April 25.
“It was as bad as it gets, heart-wise,” Mike Sewell, Guin’s primary physician, told The Times.
But instead of seeing a white light and traveling toward it, Haughton’s head football coach and athletic director envisioned granola, delicious strawberries and ice cream balls — a sign any plans for a Rodney Guin Memorial Field were incredibly premature.
There is “no medical explanation” why Guin was able to stand in his “favorite” red tennis shoes Wednesday, squeeze a walker in Room 1037 at Baylor Medical Center and make his first steps since the incident at his Haughton home 19 days prior.
Although accurately called “baby steps,” they also were appropriate. In his profession, in desperate fourth-down situations, an inch often is as good as a mile.
“God kept me around for some reason,” Guin said here Wednesday. “I haven’t figured out why just yet.”
For one reason, Guin should look no further than the community nearly robbed of one of its crown jewels.
“He’s a tremendous asset,” Sewell said. “He’s a deacon at Haughton First Baptist Church. He’s the athletic director. He’s taught so many kids at that school social studies and driver’s ed. He’s impacted just about everybody in Haughton.”
Guin was moved into a rehabilitation facility on Baylor’s campus Thursday. Doctors say he could be in store for three intense weeks. When he returns home, the 54-year-old vows things will be different. With thoughts of his health and the close-knit family (wife, Tracy, and daughters Mallory and Maggie) that has kept 24-hour vigils, he’ll aim to alter a schedule — packed from dawn past dusk — that’s become second nature.
No matter whether he coaches from the sidelines or the press box, teaches driver’s ed or attends every Buccaneers athletic event on the docket, it’s clear his community will simply be happy to have him back.
“We’re not missing just a coach, but a friend,” said Jason Brotherton, a Haughton assistant who has taken charge of the football program in Guin’s absence. “I miss sitting on the couch talking to coach; about 30 minutes every day, it’s me, coach and (Kyle) Wilkerson. We talk about family or just life. The outpouring of support you’re seeing from the community has nothing to do with winning football games. It’s about what kind of person he is.”
‘I heard a crash’
Guin, who owns a school record 111 wins as a football coach, arrived at his Haughton home just before midnight April 25 after returning from the Lady Bucs’ softball playoff game in New Orleans.
Not long after he walked in the door, his life took a dramatic turn.
Looking for a snack in the kitchen, Guin collapsed. As strange as it seems, Tracy Guin says, this is where the first in a long line of miracles occurred.
“The way he fell, on his chest, his heart started beating again. The dogs started barking and woke me up. They didn’t have to start barking, I didn’t have to get out of the bed.”
Guin soon regained consciousness, but fell again as he tried to get to his wife of 31 years — woman he affectionately calls “mom.”
“I heard a crash,” Tracy said.
“Dad” suffered a large gash on his head in the first fall and dislodged a front tooth in the second.
Tracy entered the living room and called 9-1-1.
God not ready for him
Guin initially was taken to Willis-Knighton Bossier, but the scheduled doctor on call was unavailable due to an emergency across town.
“The guy who was on call was not qualified to do what Rodney needed,” Sewell said.
Guin had 100 percent blockage in the common trunk of his heart and needed a stent. “A balloon stent in the main artery never happens — only a few guys in town are able to do that,” Sewell said.
The backup, Dr. Ajay Tummala, just happened to be one of those guys. “If the on-call doctor would have been there and realized what was needed, Rodney would have died before the next guy showed up,” Sewell said.
“God wasn’t ready for him. That’s the only explanation.”
Still facing astronomical odds of survival, Guin was transferred to Willis-Knighton on Greenwood Road in Shreveport. About noon the next day, doctors planned ECMO catheters for Guin since he was unable to produce enough oxygen for his blood.
“They wanted to get this done by 3 p.m.,” Sewell said. “At noon that day, I didn’t think he’d see 3 p.m.”
However, Dr. Curtis Prejean was able to insert the catheters and blood was pumped out of Guin’s body, oxygen was added and then pumped it back in.
“It’s like having lungs outside your body,” Sewell said.
At that point, the only chance at survival included a heart transplant. Doctors stabilized Guin and enabled his first helicopter ride. Although he doesn’t remember it, that’s how he arrived at Baylor.
Guin left behind a community united but in disbelief. Coaches representing a variety of team colors, districts and classes packed the lobby at the hospital on Greenwood. David Feaster, of Parkway, and Mike Concilio, of Bossier, were just a few of the men in attendance who stand on opposite sidelines from Guin on Friday nights in the fall.
Concilio, a man extremely close to Guin, was in a rough spot. “I had a hard time comprehending it,” said Concilio, who obviously was still emotional three weeks after the incident. “He’s one of my big mentors. Any question I have, I call him all the time.”
Guin gave Concilio one of his first jobs. In addition to teaching and coaching at Haughton, Guin had a paper route. He offered part of the route to Concilio, then a 17-year-old student at Bossier. “He’s one of those good old-school boys that is still around,” Concilio said.
Although the personal emotions were tough, Concilio won’t ever forget the looks on the faces of the Haughton football staff in the hospital. “A lot of people in the working world are just working for somebody; there is no relationship. They were emotionally disturbed. He was not just a boss, an athletic director … he was a coaching brother.”
Drop the Whataburger, now
A couple of days into Guin’s stay here, the need for a heart transplant diminished. But for nearly two weeks, he was in an induced state of paralysis.
Tracy was flanked by Maggie, a Louisiana Tech senior, and Mallory, a teacher at Parkway.
“They are my rock through all this,” Tracy said. “It hit me like a ton of bricks. They saw how upset I was. They took the reins and said, ‘Mom we can do this.’ I don’t know what I would have done without him.”
The Guin girls live out of a hotel room on Baylor’s campus and divvy up overnight shifts next to Rodney. “The girls weren’t going to leave until they knew their daddy was OK,” Tracy said.
Although their father could blink in response to questions, seeing him stare into space wasn’t the sign they needed.
But after 12 days of deep sleep, Tracy was in the room when Guin opened his eyes and offered a different reaction.
“The girls were out doing their thing,” Tracy said. “He saw me and was overwhelmed with emotion.
“I called the girls and said, ‘Come on!’ Maggie was eating Whataburger and Mallory ran down the hall in her gym pants that were two sizes too big.”
The tears flowed once again.
“It was amazing. He saw his wife and daughters,” Tracy said.
Granola, strawberries and ice cream balls
It wasn’t long before Guin played Yahtzee with his girls and began telling stories.
On Wednesday, Tracy urged her husband to recall one particular hospital tale.
“You just want to make fun of me,” Guin said.
Following some playful banter between husband and wife, Guin got to business.
“I think it happened … well, thinking back now, some of the stuff I said, it probably didn’t,” said Guin, who was still unable to differentiate real memories and drug-induced dreams.
“They said, ‘We’re going to wean you off the bad hospital food and give you some good stuff,'” Guin recalled as he focused on vivid “memories” of being fed through his IV. “I looked and they were grinding up granola. It comes down the IV and you get you a little shot of it. Next they had strawberries. I kept watching it come down the IV. It was coming my way and I said, ‘Man this is going to be good right here.’
“Then I got mad. The next things were these ice cream balls. When it got to my mouth, they shut the program down. I woke up Tracy and said, ‘That big ol’ nurse, she fell asleep before she got to the ice cream stuff. She fell asleep on the counter.'”
Guin worked to lose nearly 100 pounds about six years ago.
“Dreaming of things like that, maybe that’s why he had that heart attack,” Brotherton said. “He’ll have a great testimony; he’ll be more than willing to share that when he gets home. We’re going to have a good time retelling stories.”
Showing some respect
While Guin continues to work on things like walking and handwriting, coaching remains second nature. On Wednesday, he fielded a call from a Stanford coach — unaware of Guin’s status — looking for information on his players.
On Friday, Guin spoke to the Buccaneers via speaker phone prior to their spring game against Concilio’s Bossier squad. He’s talked to several coaches, including Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen.
Former player Matthew Sewell and local referee/umpire “T-Willie” Moore were among those to visit Wednesday. Moore entered the room and threw a yellow flag (one of Guin’s bands he uses in rehab) before he planted a big kiss on Guin’s cheek.
Then another story came to Guin’s mind. One that happens to be true. A few years ago, while on a family vacation at Panama City Beach, Fla., Guin spotted one of his idols, legendary Florida State coach Bobby Bowden.
“(Rodney) was sitting there with a T-shirt and swim trunks on; he’d been hot and sweaty,” Tracy said. “And then he tucked his T-shirt into his swimsuit.”
The mental image drew laughter from the crowd gathered in Room 1037.
“I wanted to show him some respect,” said Guin, who walked over and introduced himself to the Bowden family.
‘I’m too old school’
Guin already has contemplated the path he plans to take after he returns home. He’d like to drop driver’s ed and maybe even teaching. Maybe he shouldn’t show up at every sporting event on the schedule, but it’s going to be hard.
“I’m old school. When our kids were little, if we had a basketball game, buddy, every coach on our staff and every little kid they had were at that game. It’s not like that anymore. Times have changed.”
Said Tracy: “The girls slept in the basketball bleachers many times. We rolled up a blanket for pillows and they were out.”
Guin says Mallory, and especially Maggie, spent hours upon hours on a golf cart at Haughton while he cut grass and did other chores. “I’m too old school, probably,” Guin said.
Mike Sewell says Guin still faces bypass surgery but isn’t so sure it’s in Guin’s DNA to scale back his efforts to champion Haughton High.
“(Medically), I don’t think he has to (cut back), and that’s good because I don’t know that he can,” Sewell said. “Even if he’s not teaching, he’ll still be there. Stress is a big deal, but what happened to Rodney was going to happen. It wasn’t anything he did to cause it. It may be more stressful for him not to go to everything.”
Plus, the Guins are part of the Haughton fabric.
“Tracy is the face of Haughton High School,” Sewell said. “She is the registrar and a secretary. When you walk in the front door of Haughton High School as a visitor, Tracy is the first face you see. Sitting at the desk, she greets you with that smile. What an ambassador. And then as you get to know the program, you have Rodney on the back side. Those are pretty good ambassadors.”
‘… should be a dead man’
If Guin, a man who never smokes or drinks, wasn’t fully able to grasp his brush with death, his doctors have done a stellar job of driving the point home.
“The first doctor told me, ‘You should be a dead man,'” Guin said. “Another time, when I was impatient with my recovery, a doctor said, ‘It’s better than being buried under the dirt.'”
On Wednesday, when doctors gave Guin the green light to leave the hospital and enter rehab, the coach chose to stay with the folks at Baylor.
“Good because that’s where we send all our train wrecks,” the doctor said. “OK, well maybe you’re a bicycle wreck.”
Community believes it
Guin’s plight already has paid dividends for others. Several area coaches headed right to the doctor to test their tickers. “Everyone needs to get checked,” Guin said. “It’s the one doctor everybody forgets to go to.”
Even though he chose rehab in Dallas, Guin is itching to get home. “I had just taken the top off my Jeep. We were ready for the summer.”
The Haughton community is probably just as impatient. The support from home has been overwhelming for Tracy Guin, who says the love and admiration is far from one-sided.
“The community is very important to us. It’s our extended family. We’re not from Haughton; moved there (20 years ago). They just accepted us. We’ve just grown to love everyone there.
“It’s a really neat feeling. You don’t ever want to leave a place like that.”
For now, Guin just wants his extended family to understand one thing: “I’m still kickin.'” And sooner or later, he’ll find out why he’s defied the odds. “It’s been miracle after miracle after miracle — so many to keep count of,” Tracy said. “God was not ready for him to go. Our whole community believes it.”