A high school football coach in Illinois has made a miraculous recovery from being “clinically dead” for 12 minutes earlier this summer. Some six weeks later, he’s back on the field and is expected to be on the sidelines for his team’s season opener Friday.
As reported by Chicago ABC affiliate WLS, Oak Park & River Forest (OPRF) coach John Hoerster suffered a major heart attack while on vacation with his family in North Carolina. The incident included a 12-minute span when his heart was legally stopped, meaning he was clinically dead before being brought back to life.
Luckily, the cousin-in-law of Hoerster’s wife is trained in emergency life-saving techniques and sprang into action when the coach collapsed, performing CPR until medical help arrived. Hoerster was airlifted to a local hospital where he was treated and, somehow, made a complete recovery.
“The frightening part of the incident I didn’t have to experience,” Hoerster told WLS. “It was afterward, and seeing everybody and talking to people and kind of understanding the gravity of the situation when it kind of sunk in.
“I went down in a great place where I had people around me who knew CPR and were able to start it right away, because that really is the key to surviving this.”
The family member who performed the life-saving intervention said he was prepared, then just let his instincts take over.
“I was absolutely in the moment. I don’t even remember what I was thinking,” Matt Giffhorn told the Oak Park Pioneer Press. “I sort of just started doing what I knew how to do.
“There’s also an element of it being a family member that makes it different. You know, rather than doing it in an ICU of a hospital, it’s on my cousin who I’d played golf with earlier that day.”
Hoerster told WLS that he was informed his chances of recovering without some degree of brain damage were about five percent. Apparently he likes to defy the odds, because he not only has made a complete recovery, he’s already prepared to lead the OPRF football team in its opener Friday against fellow suburban Chicago foe Waubonsie Valley.
“What I’ve been telling players, coaches on the staff, colleagues in the building, is that I’ll be back,” Hoerster, who teaches English at OPRF, told the Pioneer Press. “People don’t know what to expect, and quite frankly, neither did I. But I’ll be back, coaching football, teaching in the classroom. The big thing I keep saying is that this is a slight stumbling block. It’s scary as anything can be, but I’ll get through this.
“I feel immensely fortunate. When I finally get healed up, when I get the green light to start working out again, it’s basically like I traded in an old car for a brand-new Ferrari. I’ve been working out for years with a heart that’s had to work overtime because the arteries haven’t been clean. I think I’ll be in the best shape of my life soon.”
That would certainly complete a truly remarkable recovery, in warp speed at that.