LOVE FOR LIFE

Stroke reawak­ens Hamp­ton coach’s zeal for time in and out of sports

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NEW YORK — David Six knows he is for­tu­nate to be alive.

Hamp­ton’s coach has cher­ished be­ing able to lead the Lady Pi­rates af­ter suf­fer­ing a stroke on June 27.

“It was a near-death ex­pe­ri­ence,” Six said be­fore Hamp­ton faced Columbia in New York last week. “You don’t see things the same.”

The 55-year-old coach, who has guided Hamp­ton to the NCAA Tour­na­ment in six of the past eight sea­sons, was told orig­i­nally by doc­tors that he would prob­a­bly need to take the year off from coach­ing to re­cover. He would have none of that.

Six months later af­ter in­tense “boot-camp re­hab”, the only rem­nants of the stroke are a torn ro­ta­tor cuff in his right shoul­der he suf­fered when he fell, and a slight limp. He’s still do­ing some re­hab to im­prove his strength, in­clud­ing wa­ter aer­o­bics — which he did be­fore suf­fer­ing the stroke.

He re­turned to cam­pus be­fore the team started prac­tice in early Oc­to­ber and earned his 200th ca­reer win just be­fore Thanks­giv­ing. Hamp­ton went 4-7 in non­con­fer­ence play, but has started 2-0 in the Big South.

“He bounced back quickly,” Hamp­ton fresh­man Laren VanArs­dale said. “A lot of peo­ple don’t come back from strokes, but he came back stronger than ever.”

The New York na­tive is well aware how lucky he was to be coach­ing. Six was driv­ing his wife An­gela to Johns Hop­kins Hos­pi­tal in Bal­ti­more for her reg­u­lar ap­point­ment to deal with a mus­cle dis­ease she suf­fers from. It was a drive he had made hun­dreds of times. Six and his wife usu­ally stop along the way from their home in Vir­ginia, but he had just got­ten a new car and was hav­ing so much fun driv­ing it that the pair made the trip with­out stop­ping that day.

About an hour be­fore reach­ing the hos­pi­tal, the coach felt a heav­i­ness in his right arm. His wife asked him what was wrong, but he said noth­ing was wrong, so as not to worry her. Yet he knew some­thing was off. A friend of his wife met them at the hos­pi­tal and she no­ticed Six was strug­gling to get out of the car. He tried to hide it from his wife, but he couldn’t.

“I was kind of stag­ger­ing try­ing to keep my bal­ance,” re­called Six. “Then I looked up and saw the sky was spin­ning. And I fell very hard on my right shoul­der.”

For­tu­nately, there was a doc­tor in the park­ing lot who rushed over to help. Af­ter mak­ing it into the emer­gency room un­der his own power he fell again as his vi­tals were be­ing taken.

“The next thing I know, they’re call­ing what­ever code it was and got me on the gur­ney,” he said. “I’m think­ing see­ing their faces that this must be very se­ri­ous.”

A CT scan con­firmed the stroke. He had a blood clot on the left side of the back of his head that af­fected the area of the brain that con­trols bal­ance and mo­bil­ity on the right side of his body. The doc­tors were able to dis­solve the blood clot with a med­i­ca­tion called Tis­sue Plas­mino­gen Ac­ti­va­tor. That med­i­ca­tion is only ef­fec­tive in the first three hours af­ter symp­toms be­gin.

About a week af­ter hav­ing the stroke, Six was sent to a re­hab fa­cil­ity at the hos­pi­tal. He ended up shar­ing a room with his wife, who was con­tin­u­ing her ther­apy for the polymyosi­tis, which causes mus­cle weak­ness on both sides of the body and lim­its move­ment.

Six at­tacked his re­hab dur­ing his six-week stint at Hop­kins.

“I was re­hab­bing about three hours a day,” he said. “I wouldn’t take a day off.”

The coach was dis­charged at the end of July, a week be­fore his wife. The pair went to live with their daugh­ter in Mary­land, but a few weeks later Six de­cided to re­turn home to Vir­ginia as his daugh­ter had a pair of young twins to look af­ter and he felt he would re­cover sooner hav­ing to do things for him­self.

Coach Six said he would wait un­til af­ter the sea­son to take care of the ro­ta­tor cuff. He hopes that won’t be un­til af­ter an­other NCAA Tour­na­ment ap­pear­ance.

“I got a lot of bas­ket­ball to worry about first,” he said smil­ing.

[AP PHOTO/SEAN RAYFORD, FILE]

In this Nov. 20, 2016 file photo, Hamp­ton coach David Six com­mu­ni­cates with play­ers dur­ing the first half of the team’s NCAA col­lege bas­ket­ball game against South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. Six has cher­ished be­ing able to lead the Lady Pi­rates af­ter suf­fer­ing a stroke on June 27. The 55-year-old coach, who has guided Hamp­ton to the NCAA Tour­na­ment in six of the past eight sea­sons, was told orig­i­nally by doc­tors that he would prob­a­bly need to take the year off from coach­ing to re­cover. He would have none of that. Six months later af­ter in­tense “boot-camp re­hab”, the only rem­nants of the stroke are a torn ro­ta­tor cuff in his right shoul­der he suf­fered when he fell and a slight limp. He’s still do­ing some re­hab to im­prove his strength, in­clud­ing wa­ter aer­o­bics — which he did be­fore suf­fer­ing the stroke.

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