The first thought that went through Marty Yuhas’ head was that his wife would be upset that he got grass stains on his coaching pants.
It is also the last thing Yuhas remembers from the night of Oct. 15.
The 67-year-old assistant football coach at Salem High School crumpled to his knees during a junior varsity game that evening in Christiansburg and fell facedown in the dirt on the visitors sideline.
Within seconds, Salem athletic trainer Chris Tucker arrived at his longtime friend and colleague’s side.
Tucker sensed immediately what doctors would later discover and Yuhas’ family and friends would soon become shocked to learn.
Yuhas had suffered an aneurysm on the left side of his brain.
Grass stains or not, his laundry list of woes had just begun.
Road trips for Salem JV football games are routine.
Get on the bus Thursday after school. Defeat another opponent. Come back home.
Nothing was different Oct. 15, except that Yuhas, who had back surgery in 2014 and has been managing diabetes and high blood pressure, had an appointment with his doctor that morning.
“Everything about our trip to Christiansburg was like normal,” said Yuhas, who is Salem’s JV head coach. “We got there, warmed up and started the game.
“All I remember was I kind of lost my balance and I’m down on my knees. Other than that, that’s it. My next memory from there … I don’t remember.”
Tucker rushed to the coach’s side and did not like what he found.
“I was there within a couple of seconds after he went down,” Tucker said. “We had to turn him over. He was looking at me, but his pupils were not responsive.
“I got a real weak pulse. At that time, you just elevate his feet, keep him comfortable. I told Marty to take deep breaths so he could get oxygen to his brain.”
An ambulance took Yuhas to nearby LewisGale Hospital Montgomery.
Salem varsity head coach Stephen Magenbauer followed in his personal car.
When Magenbauer arrived at the hospital, he was surprised to see Yuhas sitting on a stretcher talking as if nothing was wrong.
“When I got there, he was apparently fine,” Magenbauer said.
Yuhas’ wife, Wyn, received a phone call from Tucker that evening telling her only that Marty had fallen.
Barbara Leftwich, whose husband, Jeff, also is a Salem assistant coach, drove her to the hospital in Blacksburg.
When Wyn Yuhas arrived, she got a different picture, particularly from the attending physician.
“The doctor came in and said, ‘Mr. Yuhas, I see something on your brain scan that I don’t like so I’m going to call UVa [Medical Center] and [Carilion] Roanoke Memorial,’ ” she recalled.
The decision was made quickly. Yuhas was airlifted to Charlottesville.
Wyn rode back to Salem with a family friend, delayed by a traffic problem on Interstate 81.
When she got to her front door, the telephone was ringing.
On the other end was someone from the hospital in Charlottesville. The helicopter had arrived.
Renowned neurologist Dr. Kenneth Liu happened to be the physician on call.
The decision was made.
Yuhas would undergo surgery just after midnight.
The four-hour operation was a success, but Yuhas faced a long road to recovery.
Wyn Yuhas was asleep in a waiting area when her cellphone buzzed.
“The resident working with Dr. Liu called,” she said. “He said in the next 14 days he could probably have another stroke and he would die. I didn’t go back to sleep then.”
Yuhas had a tube inserted in his skull that snaked through his neck, under his rib cage and into his stomach to drain excess fluid.
He was placed on a ventilator, hooked up to tubes and wrapped up like a mummy.
He underwent repeated lumbar punctures and was given heavy doses of medication.
Magenbauer made three trips to Charlottesville, but during much of the visits, Yuhas was asleep.
For the first two weeks after the surgery, Wyn Yuhas split her time between UVa and Salem, where she took care of the family pets and waited for the phone to ring.
“It was like a month,” she said. “It was hell. Those first 14 days, every time the phone would ring, I would leap.
“My emotions, I’ve had my times, but I’ve held together pretty well.”
However, on the Saturday immediately following the surgery, Wyn and her daughter, Jackie Hudson, got an indication from Marty that things might turn out well.
“We were in his room and he looked up and said, ‘You realize you’re irritating me,’ ” Wyn said. “I looked up at Jackie and she said, ‘He’s going to be fine.’ ”
Yuhas was transferred from UVa to LewisGale Medical Center in Salem on Nov. 17.
Since Nov. 27, the Salem coach has continued his recovery at The Rehab Center at Richfield in Roanoke County.
He has regained some of the 25 pounds he lost. Walking without a cane remains a challenge.
“I don’t recommend it as a way to lose weight,” Yuhas said. “If I get talking and looking around, I still stumble every now and then.”
That’s a tough pill to swallow for a former college athlete.
Yuhas, a Patrick Henry High School graduate, played football for East Tennessee State. During his junior year, ETSU defeated Louisiana Tech 34-14 in the Grantland Rice Bowl played in Baton Rouge.
Louisiana Tech’s quarterback was Terry Bradshaw, who led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl titles in the 1970s.
“I ran into him at the SAE House at LSU before the game,” Yuhas recalled. “He was there with a couple of his teammates. He was an arrogant a–. We cleaned his clock all day long.”
Wyn Yuhas has one wish for the holidays.
“I’m asking Santa Claus for Christmas for Marty to be home,” she said.
That remains a possibility. Yuhas is making progress. However, one of Marty Yuhas’ wishes will not come true.
When Salem meets Lake Taylor for the VHSL Group 4A state championship Saturday at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Yuhas won’t be there.
He will either be in room 402 at Richfield listening to the game on the radio, or out on a day pass watching the game on the Internet.
“He told me he was going to go in a school bus,” Wyn said. “I said, ‘No, you’re not.’ He said, ‘Yes, I am.’ I said, ‘No, you’re not.’ ”
Yuhas has been an assistant coach at Salem for 35 years.
He helped the Spartans win four VHSL Group AA Division 4 championships from 1996-2000 under former head coach Willis White, then two more in 2004 and 2005 under Magenbauer.
Will Yuhas coach football again?
“I don’t know,” he said.
Regardless of the outcome Saturday, Yuhas is a winner.
“It is unbelievable,” Tucker said. “All my medical friends were very cautious with their words when I told them where he was, how he was doing and what his symptoms were.
“Now to see him, is just amazing. I think the human spirit and prayer have a lot to do with it. It’s just an absolute miracle.”
Wyn Yuhas’ Christmas card list is a long one.
First, the physicians and staff at three hospitals and one rehab center.
Then, the folks in the Salem community and within the Spartans football program. Stickers honoring Yuhas were placed on helmets. Players sent him a digital tape recorder with inspirational messages.
“It’s amazing the support I got during that time from the parents, the kids, the coaches,” she said. “They brought two huge boxes of stuff for me at the hospital.”
And finally her family, including 17-year-old grandson Trip Hudson, who was born three months premature, weighing just 1 pound, 14 ounces.
When his grandfather was hooked up to tubes and hoses at UVa, Trip was the one family member whose optimism ran highest.
“The first time he came to see grandpa was at UVa,” Wyn said. “He didn’t have a whole lot to say in the truck on the way home.
“When he got home, his mom said, ‘What do think? Did you see grandpa? Did it upset you?’