Carter High School coach suffers stroke, continues recovery

Carter High School coach suffers stroke, continues remarkable road to recovery

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By LORI TUCKER
6 News Anchor

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A local high school head football coach never dreamed getting ejected from a game would lead to a life or death experience.

But that's what happened to longtime Carter High coach Heath Woods last August.

Now, months later, coach Woods is ready to share his story.

It was August 16th, 2012. Carter High at Grace Christian Academy. Little did coach Heath Woods know, the first game of the season came close to becoming his last. 

"We were there playing. Obviously an official and I had a disagreement," Woods said. "I realized, 'uh-oh, I went too far.'"

"How can I be calm? I was just ejected from a football game on TV," Woods continued.  "I said this is kind of professional suicide right here."

Woods, who had been coaching the Green Hornets since 2002, was sick to his stomach and quickly realized it was more than being kicked out of the game.

"I'm beginning to panic and realize I'm sick. I shouldn't be this sick," Woods said. "I could tell my right arm and leg were just numb. And I couldn't move them."

The Rural Metro ambulance on the sidelines to assist any players needing help was suddenly rushing to the aid of the ailing coach.

EMTs quickly determined Heath Woods at the age of 45, was having a major stroke. They rushed him to UT Medical Center.

"All I could think about was my wife and kids," Woods said. "The ambulance starts to go to UT and I can think of Christy and Dalton at home and I think of Clay, and I can see the stadium and the lights behind me and I remember thinking everybody's taken care of. I've got to take care of myself."

"I truly believe he was moments away from death," said Dr. Peter Kvamme, neuro-interventionalist with UT Medical Center. "He had one of the most complex levels of stroke that you can have."

The culprit was an enormous blood clot that extended from his neck all the way into the back part of the brain.

Woods was given the clot busting drug, TPA. The clot was so big however, Woods also needed surgery with stents to get the blood flowing again.

"How thankful I am that they were there and did their job extremely well that day," said Woods.

"I even remember that night saying a prayer as we were doing it because it was a very complicated case," said Dr. Kvamme.

Six months later Dr. Kvamme visits coach Woods on his turf, the weight room at Carter High to give him a coordination test. A test that Dr. Kvamme said he passed tremendously.

But what about the true test on the field? Is Heath Woods ready to get back to the game as head coach?

"If my health holds up and I do as well as I think I can I anticipate coming back here next year," said Woods. "There was a reason in my mind and my heart that afternoon I was saved and not taken away from here."

Coach Woods may seem young to have had a stroke, but as his doctor says, it can happen to anyone, any age, anywhere at any time.

According to stroke.org here are fast facts to check for stroke symptoms:

FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?

TIME:  If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.

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