Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Basketball coach not missing a beat after heart attacks, bypass surgeries

OXFORD — Charlie Coles can see all too clearly his fate in a world without the technological advancements in heart care that have been achieved over the last several decades.

His heart has been through the wringer. A heart attack and triple-bypass surgery at age 43. Cardiac arrest while coaching a basketball game at age 56. A quadruple bypass at age 66.

“If I’d had these problems in the 1950s, I would have been long gone. Several times, not once,” said Coles, whose heart, instead, has helped propel Miami University men’s basketball to three NCAA tournament berths, including a spot in the Sweet 16 in 1999.

That’s why Coles, who at age 67 will soon begin his 14th season as Miami’s head coach, said he is happy to be the celebrity starter at this year’s Butler County Heart Walk.

Coles’ heart troubles surfaced while he was coaching at Central Michigan.

“They discovered my arteries were clogged up,” he said. “I had angioplasty (a procedure to unclog the arteries) and that didn’t work, and then I had a heart attack in the hospital. I waited six weeks to get stronger and then I had a triple bypass.”

After coming to Miami, Coles nearly died in 1998 during a tournament game at Western Michigan.

“I had a heart beat over 200 beats per minute,” he said. “My heart stopped on me and they had to beat me with a paddle to bring me back. That’s when they put in a defibrillator (with a pacemaker).”

All seemed well until the end of the 2007-08 season. The clogging had returned.

“That was the most serious of my problems,” he said. “They gave me a quadruple bypass, a new defibrillator. My open-heart surgery lasted 14 hours, and I had surgery again later that week. That was the real rough one right there.

“It took them a little while to decide whether I needed a heart transplant or a heart bypass,” Coles recalled. “They reshaped my heart. It was so complicated, I asked them how can you do that? It’s amazing what our medical people have come up with. It blows my mind.”

Now the spring has returned to his step.

“So far, so good,” he said. “Every day I wake up, I say a prayer and move on. I thank God for the people who have helped me — nurses, doctors, family, friends.

“When I was growing up,” Coles said, “I was convinced that if anything went wrong with the heart or brain, cash it in, it’s all over. Well, that ain’t the truth now.”


Jon Harris Twinsburg, OH 2010 off to Miami-OH

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