The life of a high school basketball coach can be stressful at times. Game plans, high-pressure situations and travel — especially around New York City — can all take their toll over time.
Bishop Loughlin H.S., Fort Greene, head boys’ varsity basketball coach Ed Gonzalez has been a fixture in the local Catholic league for more than a decade. He’s seen it all, from winning three Brooklyn-Queens titles to four appearances in the city championship final game.
So it’s safe to say that he’s experienced his fair amount of stress. Yet Gonzalez is an example that leading a healthy lifestyle amidst stress can wind up saving your life.
Just about one year ago, the Lions were set to open their CHSAA league play on Dec. 3, 2019 against rival St. Francis Prep on the road in Fresh Meadows. Gonzalez, then 56, remembers speaking to his family in days prior to the game, telling them how great he felt physically heading into a new season.
The game was a back-and-forth contest with many lead changes and lots of excitement. With just over a minute remaining, Gonzalez all of a sudden sat down. If you know Gonzalez, you know he never sits down during a game.
“My body felt very funny,” he said. “I sat down during a time-out and said I didn’t feel good and wasn’t sure what’s going on.”
Once his eyes started rolling back in his head, that was the signal for medical staff on hand to administer first aid. An ambulance arrived to rush Gonzalez to New York-Presbyterian Queens, where members of the Bishop Loughlin community — some of whom were not even at the game — showed up to be by his side.
Bishop Loughlin Dean Luis Montes sat with Gonzalez in the emergency room. When Gonzalez complained of a terrible headache, Montes happened to stop a nurse in passing, prompting hospital staff to perform a CT scan. It was at that moment that doctors sent him straight to emergency surgery in what proved to be a race against time.
The CT scan showed bleeding in the brain caused by a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, a condition associated with a high likelihood of disability and even death. Thanks to the rapid response by Dr. Ning Lin and the team at New York-Presbyterian Queens, Gonzalez received the timely care needed to save his life.
After surgery, Gonzalez woke up two weeks later at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan. In total, he spent two and a half months in the hospital, since he had to relearn basic human functions, including how to walk. Doctors said his baseline health before the incident helped lead to his successful ongoing recovery.
In what became a reversal of roles, Gonzalez — normally the coach — was now the student learning from his medical team. He listened to his inner voice as a coach, which gave him the determination to fight through the toughest moments of his recovery.
The support of his family and his Lions team helped motivate him to get stronger. In the meantime, his childhood friend Tony Chiles took over the basketball team as the interim coach, assisted by Gerrad Herbert and Victor Monaros, for the remainder of the season.
“The Loughlin family was unbelievable,” Gonzalez said. “The support that they bestowed on me from the very beginning was amazing. I must have gotten Christmas cards from everyone in the school. I think the power of prayer is what healed me.”
Gonzalez is now back to work part time as Bishop Loughlin’s director of admissions. He is also easing back into his coaching role, though there has been no official word on the start of the high school basketball season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As he continues to get stronger and prepare for the varsity hoops season, Gonzalez wants to remind folks to get regular checkups, listen to their bodies, maintain a healthy diet and try to keep stress levels down. All of these factors can play a role in minimizing the risks of serious illness.
“Right now, I’m blessed to be here, and I’m so happy that I got a second chance,” Gonzalez said. “A parent told me it was not my time, since I do so much good for kids. My job is not done yet.”
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.