~~Kevin Roussell, athletic director and head football coach at McMain, is recovering in a Baton Rouge hospital following surgery to remove a pair of enlarged parathyroid glands from his neck that presented a life-threatening situation.
Surgery was performed last Thursday at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center where Roussell was taken by ambulance after collapsing unconscious during the evening of Jan. 30.
State Coach of the Year in Class 3A football and All-Metro New Orleans Coach of the Year as well for small schools in 2011, Roussell was attending the annual Louisiana High School Athletic Association meetings in Baton Rouge at the time he collapsed.
Easton head football coach Tony Hull said he and Easton Principal Alexina Medley, who were accompanying Roussell at the time, had to perform four rounds of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to revive Roussell, who had stopped breathing and had no pulse.
An Emergency Medical Team arrived shortly thereafter to stabilize Roussell and then rush him via ambulance to Our Lady of the Lake, Hull said.
One of the Metro area’s most affable and respected coaches, Roussell said he was diagnosed to have two enlarged parathyroid glands in his neck that were collapsing his trachea or windpipe and cutting off the flow of oxygen.
Roussell said he had been having difficulty breathing for several weeks, but believed his symptoms were tied to an asthmatic condition that he been treating with medicine from an asthma pump.
“The Man upstairs took care of me,’’ Roussell said Monday. “Tony told me I was gone.’’
Roussell, McMain Principal Bridgette Frick, Medley, Hull and an Easton academic counselor were travelling between hotels located around the LHSAA convention headquarters in a pair of separate vehicles headed to dinner on Jan. 30 when Roussell began experiencing difficulty breathing, Hull said.
The vehicle in which Roussell was a passenger then came to an abrupt stop upon which Roussell exited, leaned against the vehicle while wheezing for several seconds and then buckled to his knees, Hull said. Roussell then fell the rest of the way to the ground unconscious.
It was then that Medley and Hull, who had been driving alone in a vehicle behind the one in which Roussell and the others were travelling, performed CPR while an ambulance was summoned.
“When Kevin got out and leaned on the car, you could see something was wrong,’’ Hull said. “He was struggling to breath.’’
“All I remember is getting out of the truck,’’ Roussell said. “The next time I remember anything was when I woke up in the hospital. I didn’t have any idea what had happened. I thought it was a dream. It was scary.’’
“It was frightening to see a friend in the situation he was in,’’ Hull said. “It makes you happy and thankful to the Lord to be able to help out a friend in a time of need.’’
Although it originally was feared that Roussell may have experienced some type of cardiovascular episode, an examination by Our Lady of the Lake’s medical staff revealed that his heart was fine and subsequently identified the life-threatening enlarged parathyroid condition.
“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, so there was no alcohol in play in it,’’ Roussell, 52, and overweight, said. “ There was no heart attack. It’s just me not taking care of myself.’’
Roussell said he was removed from the Intensive Care Unit at Our Lady of the Lake on Sunday and currently is undergoing rehabilitation designed to reintroduce him to walking after being bed ridden for 11 days.
Doctors and medical staff personnel have not determined when Roussell can be discharged and allowed to return to New Orleans.
Roussell said he presently is uncertain if he will be able to return to teach and coach until next school year, but he definitely plans a return for the 2014-15 school year.
In addition to serving as McMain’s athletic director and head football coach, Roussell also serves as head coach in girls basketball and girls track.
One huge positive from the experience, Roussell said, has been the overwhelming outpour of support he has received from family, friends, current and former players and students and fellow coaches and teachers.
Orleans Parish Athletic Director Ronald Gearing, McDonogh 35 Athletic Director Ulyses Collins, Coach Wayne Reese and the entire McDonogh 35 football staff have visited him at the hospital as have other coaches such as Warren Armstrong and Norman Mack. Gearing and Reese have made multiple visits.
“It has shown me how many friends out there that I have,’’ Roussell said.
When he initially was taken to Our Lady of the Lake, Roussell said, “I was told the waiting room was nothing but coaches.’’
Roussell has served as athletic director and head football coach at McMain for the past six years after spending more than two decades teaching and coaching at now defunct Fortier High School.
Roussell was chosen as the Coach of the Year on the Class 3A All-State team and for Metro New Orleans in 2011 after directing McMain to the school’s first district championship in football, its first playoff victories and an advance to the Class 3A state quarterfinals en route to a 9-4 record.
“Kevin is such a good guy,’’ Hull said. “He’s one of those coaches in the profession where the majority of people love him.’’
Mike Strom can be reached at Mstrom@nola.comor 504.826.3405. Follow him at twitter.com/TheMikeStrom.