Morgan's Mitchell to leave hospital

Football coach suffered heart attack last week

February 15, 2000|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Morgan State football coach Stanley Mitchell could be released from Union Memorial Hospital today, currently in good condition after suffering a massive heart attack late last week.

Mitchell, 51, was scheduled to meet with his coaching staff on Friday morning when he began having chest pains. He said he drove to the hospital at about 9: 30 a.m., and doctors kept him for triple-bypass surgery that lasted four hours.

The evening before, Mitchell was with his fiancee, Loretta Smith, when he began feeling ill.

"I wasn't feeling too good," the coach said of what turned out to be a blood clot that prevented the passage of 95 percent of the blood headed for his heart. "The valves wouldn't open to my heart. It was pinching my chest and I was sweating."

During the surgery, performed by Dr. Luis Mispireta, two veins were taken from Mitchell's left leg to replace damaged heart tissue.

Recovery is expected to take six to eight weeks, but Mitchell said the team's recruiting is done, and he expects to run the spring practices that begin at the end of March.

"He's lucky," Smith said. "If he hadn't gotten here within an hour of when he did, he would have been gone. He gave me the best Valentine's Day gift, the gift of life."

Health problems are nothing new for Mitchell, a Vietnam veteran whose ambition has led him from Pop Warner to Division I in his football coaching career. In January 1996, Mitchell needed to check into a hospital for chest pains and an irregular heartbeat.

Back then, when he was coaching at Dunbar High, the coach said that his inattention to his health caused the problems.

"I wasn't taking care of routine illnesses, like colds, as I should because I was running, worrying with the program," he told The Sun.

Since taking the Morgan State job in March 1999, Mitchell has been just as frenzied in trying to make up for a late start in recruiting players and preparing his team for the coming season.

Mitchell said he was feeling better than four years ago. The sudden illness puzzled him because he exercises three or four times a week.

"I didn't feel like I was stressed out," he said. "If I didn't exercise regularly, I would have been gone."

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