Reed City coach returns to sidelines after heart ailment
REED CITY — Zack Griffin has been on the sideline this season coaching the Reed City junior varsity football team, something he thought he might not be doing after suffering a rare medical emergency this summer.
Being able to coach is a victory for Griffin after he suffered what he thought was a heart attack back in late June.
It all started on, June 16, when Griffin started to experience flu-like symptoms that progressively got worse as the week wore on.
“I thought it was just your typical flu stuff, but that Thursday night I started having severe chest pains every three hours that correlated with my temperature,” he said. “I decided that Friday morning to go to the doctor downtown and they kicked me over to the (emergency room) after they saw my enzyme levels were screwed up.
“They figured my heart function was down nearly 40 percent and I could have had a blocked vessel that could have led to a heart attack.”
Griffin was then quickly airlifted by helicopter to the Meijer Heart Center in Grand Rapids, where he was diagnosed with myocarditis.
According to the American Heart Association, myocarditis is a virus that infects the heart and damages the heart muscle, which can cause chest pain, heart failure and sudden death if not treated.
“It felt like I was getting stabbed every three hours,” Griffin said. “I was to the point that I was so weak that I couldn’t even cry. They kept saying ‘you’re one sick puppy and you’re lucky you came in when you did.’”
Griffin said after getting pumped with antibiotics, he was able to recover in six days and leave the hospital with no ongoing effects.
Now a few months removed from the incident, Griffin shared his story recently with the students at Reed City High School during an assembly prior to the Coyotes’ game against Calvin Christian.
The assembly was part of a partnership with the American Heart Association, as both Griffin and Amanda Peterson, the Youth Marketing Director for Northwest Michigan for the American Heart Association, showed the students that no matter how young you are, this same virus can attack anyone at anytime, regardless of prior health.
“I think inspiration was the biggest key for this assembly,” Peterson said. “(Myocarditis) affects everyone both young and old. I think the message sunk in when coach Griffin shared his story because that puts a local face and meaning to it.”
Reed City athletic director Kris Griffin, Zack’s mother, said she could see the message of the presentation sinking in as she looked out into the crowd.
“I think seeing Zack out there and knowing that is something that could actually happen really helped get the message across,” she said. “Kids think that something like that could never happen to them. It all happened so quickly with Zack and we just thought he had the flu. It was a very scary thing to go through.”
For more information on myocarditis, visit the American Heart Association online at www.heart.org