'God brought me back': Riverdale assistant Perry Lyons fights through stroke, returns to team

Photo: Cecil Joyce

'God brought me back': Riverdale assistant Perry Lyons fights through stroke, returns to team


'God brought me back': Riverdale assistant Perry Lyons fights through stroke, returns to team


Riverdale assistant softball coach Perry Lyons has been getting around with a walker the past few days. But he doesn’t really need it.

His speech has been altered a bit. But you can’t really tell.

He was at the softball field at Riverdale last weekend for the Southern Warrior Classic tournament. But you wouldn’t have believed it if you didn’t see it.

Lyons, 45, suffered a near-deadly stroke on Feb. 18.

Five weeks later he was back on the softball field showing  minor signs of enduring a hemorrhagic stroke and not being expected to live through the night.

“God brought me back for some reason,” said  Lyons, who coached Siegel to a 2016 Class AAA state runner-up finish. He was also a star athlete at Riverdale and Smyrna in the early 1990s before playing minor league baseball.

“He’s a fighter,” said Perry’s wife, Sandy Lyons. “I’ve never met anyone as strong as he is.”

Riverdale assistant softball coach Perry Lyons fist-pumps Lady Warrior player Sydney Williams as Lyons’ daughter, Gabi, looks on Saturday, March 23. (Photo: Cecil Joyce)

Presidents Day

Feb. 18 was Presidents Day, and Perry Lyons, a teacher at Rocky Fork Middle in Smyrna, was out of school for the day.

That proved to be a blessing for the Lyons family on the day Perry suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when blood from an artery suddenly begins bleeding into the brain. It is similar to a brain aneurysm.

“It was in the afternoon and I was getting ready to take a shower,” said Perry . “Last thing I remember is I fell. I came to for a little bit then went out again. The next thing I know I was in Nashville (at Saint Thomas West hospital).

“There were no warning signs. It was all of a sudden.”

His wife was home at the time. Had it been a normal school day, her husband would have been making his way from Smyrna to Riverdale.

“He told me, ‘I think I’m having a heart attack,’ but he didn’t grab his chest or anything like that. But shortly after, he passed out,” Sandy said.

“When he passed out, I shook him and he regained consciousness. He actually got back up and took two more steps, then fell into the dresser and bounced onto the bed and vomited. He never lost consciousness again at the house.”

Perry told his wife his head was killing him and throbbing, but she’d already called for an ambulance. The initial thought was that he had a stomach bug or some other illness.

“But I’d never seen anyone pass out from a stomach bug,” Sandy said. “I was told (when the ambulance arrived) that he was talking to the EMTs and looked good.”

Things took a turn for the worse from there, though.

Riverdale assistant softball coaches Perry Lyons (left) and Jace May talk outside the team’s clubhouse during the Southern Warrior Classic softball tournament Saturday, March 23. Lyons had a stroke on Feb. 18. (Photo: Cecil Joyce)

Clearing the second hurdle

Lyons’ “fighting” helped him come out of initial danger created by the aneurysm, but a seemingly long and painful rehabilitation awaited.

He was also suffering from ileus, which is a lack of movement in the intestines that can prevent food, liquids and gases to flow.

“His stomach swelled up … it looked like he was eight months pregnant,” Sandy said. “The nurse in the hospital told him, ‘If you don’t get up out of bed, you’re going to die.’ But at that point, it hurt him to do anything. It hurt him to lay in bed, it hurt him to sit up.”

Perry endured the pain, fought through the ileus and began rehabilitation at Murfreesboro’s TrustPoint Hospital.

After two weeks of exceeding expectations and doing far more than the recommended therapy, Lyons was released from TrustPoint on Friday.

And his first destination was the softball field.

“(Friday) was the best day of my life,” Perry said. “It was therapy. I couldn’t do much but cheer for (Riverdale) and motivate them, but it was therapy. I love being in the dugout.”

Riverdale assistant softball coach Perry Lyons (seated) is pictured with his wife, Sandy, and daughters Gabi (left) and Addy (right). (Photo: Submitted)

Motivation to move forward

Lyons planned to spend a couple of innings at the ballpark, but  stayed the entire game. He was back at it the next day, using a walker he admittedly could have done without and speaking much better than anyone could have imagined.

“I think someone has a plan for a very special coach,” said Riverdale coach Christy Bingham. “That’s what I think. We’re grateful to have him. “

The Lady Warriors are certainly motivated by Lyons’ return.

“To come back so quickly means a lot,” said Riverdale junior Kendall Forsythe. “And it pushes us to go harder every day.

“I was very scared. I just started praying and asked God to heal him and bring him back to us. I didn’t want to go through the season without him.”

Perry Lyons said he expects to be “back in full force” for the Lady Warriors by early April. After seeing what he has accomplished in the last five weeks, there’s likely nobody doubting that plan.

He credited numerous family members and the TrustPoint team for a rapid recovery.

“I did therapy four times a day. When the doctor would say, ‘Do you wanna stop?’ I said, ‘No.’ I kept going,” Perry said.

“You don’t hear stories like that,” Sandy added. “They were just shocked. They started calling him ‘Superstar ‘at TrustPoint. I can’t tell you how much pain he was in, but he fought through it.

“It’s awesome. It’s a miracle. I don’t know another word for it.”

Lyons will continue occupational and speech therapy. He will continue helping Riverdale’s softball team during that time.

And he will be loving every minute of it.

“Just today (Sandy was complaining) and I said, ‘We have nothing to complain about. I’m still living.’ I have a new perspective on it. So what if you have a new scratch on your car? It’s no big deal.”

Reach Cecil Joyce at cjoyce@dnj.com or 615-542-8830 and on Twitter @Cecil_Joyce.

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