SYCAMORE TOWNSHIP - Eddie Clark's exercise regimen this week was to walk for three minutes three times during the day.
For a former athlete who still actively officiates basketball and paces the lacrosse sidelines like a caged tiger, the prescription was frustrating.
At 46 years old, the Sycamore girls lacrosse coach recently had his July 4 plans spoiled by open heart quadruple bypass surgery that took place June 30 at Bethesda North Hospital. Amazingly, with today's medical technology, he was home July 5 recuperating with some words of advice.
"The two things I would say is keep track of your family history and my wife's going to like this one, but listen to your wife when they tell you to go to the doctor," Clark said.
The highly-decorated Sycamore coach had his summer lacrosse teams (he has five) in Indianapolis Sunday, June 27 but was in the doctor's office at the behest of his wife Monday, June 28.
At first, the doctor assured him he would be out of the office in an hour or two after some basic testing. The worst-case scenario was believed to be the insertion of a stent and an overnight stay. Not long after, the doctor changed his prognosis after viewing the angiography.
"They found a bunch of clogged blood vessels," Clark said. "It's genetic. I had 100% blockage in one artery and 99% in the other. But, they say when you're young, your heart will create its own vessels. As you get older it doesn't do that."
His only indication of a problem was being out of breath a lot. He attributed that to having had COVID-19 over the winter.
Clark and his wife Jenny have two toddler boys, ages two and three. Though he had slowed his schedule some, he still officiates high school basketball and teaches physical education. In addition to his lacrosse duties, he's refereed football, coached basketball and dabbled in ice hockey and cross-country throughout his career.
"It started in December," Clark explained. "I'd go ref a basketball game and the first five minutes I'd be fine, then for four or five minutes, I would struggle. It was to the point where there was probably a foul I shouldn't have called because I needed a break. There were one or two games where I felt I needed to stop. After that, I'd be fine the rest of the night."
Warning signs for Clark came even earlier. He began to think about his health in the early months of 2020 just prior to the coronavirus pandemic spread. He officiated the last game of Anderson junior varsity coach Danny Celenza before he suddenly passed March 5, 2020.
With that in perspective, Clark feels fortunate that his ailment was discovered and treated. Incredibly, no heart damage was found despite some family history.
"My Dad passed away of an irregular heartbeat and my Mom passed away from strokes, so cardiovascular disease runs in my family," Clark said.
His biggest life change ahead outside of regaining physical strength will be changing his diet.
Clark is an Ohio Hall of Fame lacrosse coach who accepted the Sycamore job 22 years ago. He recently surpassed 350 career wins and has won three state championships, with three runner-up finishes, 11 trips to the state semifinals and 12 regional titles.
Now, he can return to officiating basketball by the start of the season and he's able to resume his coaching duties in about eight weeks. In the meantime, his team has been very supportive as well as team parents.
As a parent himself, he again looks forward to someday coaching his sons who have had difficulty understanding what has happened to their father.
"They do a little bit," Clark said. "The three-year-old kind of understands, the two-year-old has no clue."
Though he is struggling with doing nothing, Clark feels blessed that he did something.
In support of the family, a Meal Train site has been started to provide food while Clark recovers. The veteran coach appreciates the many prayers and well wishes he's received and is trying to update his status periodically on Facebook.
Always the competitor, he is already thinking about his Sycamore Lady Aves who won the first Greater Miami Conference title in 2019 and shared the crown with Mason this spring.
"We were really young last year so we should be pretty good," Clark said.