‘Don’t go to the game’: Coach Thomas recovers from health scare

Life is bigger than the game of football. Central High Head Coach William Thomas said he found that out the hard way this month. 

Thomas was not on the sidelines Friday as Central High played Southampton, still recovering from a near fatal health scare just days prior. He left the team in the hands of his assistant coaches and had to watch. 

“I watched some of it online, but watching it 20 miles away is worse because there’s nothing you can do.  I couldn’t help them,” relayed Thomas.

Fortunately, Thomas got the help he needed from medical professionals. The trouble started on Monday, Nov. 6.  

“Before school started, I was getting my lesson plans together and items for the All-District meeting.  I knew something wasn’t right with my leg and it felt like another blood clot, which I had about three years ago during the COVID year,” recalled Thomas, who instantly realized that driving to the hospital was not his best option at that time.  

“I walked to the office and told them to call the ambulance and they sent me to South Hill Hospital, which is about 35 minutes from Victoria. After that, I stayed in there for a couple hours. My wife came and the doctor said “you have a serious issue. We’re going to send you to MCV,” Thomas said. “They had to medflight me, threw me in the helicopter and my team of doctors told me I have a pulmonary embolism.”

For those unfamiliar with that condition, it is one where one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot.  Not only can it go undetected at times, but it can be potentially life threatening and death can occur when leg clots break free and become lodged in the lungs.

Coach Thomas fights for his health 

“They told me they had to operate on me.  We can get it done in 30 minutes,” revealed Thomas.  “Finally, they pulled it on out and had to go all the way up my groin to pull out the blood clot in my lungs. My heart was beating like 150 times a minute at South Hill. It did some damage to my heart, but not irreparable. They took the oxygen out of my nose and my heartbeat went down immediately.”

During the entire process, Thomas had both his heart rate and blood pressure reach extremely dangerous levels. Going in, his chance of survival wasn’t great, but doctors say the fact they were able to get to it quickly helped prevent disaster. 

“They saved my life and I’m going to have to be on blood thinners the rest of my life,” Thomas said. “They wanted to make sure they got everything, so they wanted to do an ultrasound on my legs and on my heart. On Tuesday night, they moved me down and wouldn’t let me eat or drink,” said Thomas. He had been hoping he would get moved out of ICU on Nov. 6, though the doctors wanted to err on the side of caution. That decision proved to be another prudent one.

“They found more in my legs. I was terrified and didn’t move,” Thomas said. “The surgeon came down and told me it was not as big a deal because they were sure they could treat those with medicine. Finally, my wife and I got out there around Thursday at 12.”

‘I have a playoff game’ 

Once released from the hospital, Coach Thomas turned his attention to trying to get his team prepared for a 5-5, upset-minded Southampton squad. The doctors had other ideas

I told them, ‘Look, I have a playoff game.’ They told me don’t you dare go to that game,” Thomas said. “You do not need any stress or that heart rate to go up. (The doctor) told me I couldn’t go to the game. But he didn’t tell me I couldn’t talk to the players.” 

Now Thomas is at home, getting back on his feet. And as Thanksgiving approaches, he’s certainly thankful to be here to talk about it.