It’s been more than three months since Martin Griffin suffered a stroke. Friday night the assistant coach will make his way back onto the field where he nearly died, reuniting with the man who saved him.
It was a hot day of football camp on June 7 when the Oak Grove lineman coach collapsed.
“When I tried to walk my left leg wouldn’t work … and I fell right there in front of ’em, right face first into the turf,” said Griffin. “It was like somebody grabbed me by the back of the neck and squeezed with everything they had.”
Cole Webster, the school’s full-time athletic trainer was called over to help. He immediately noticed the classic signs for a stroke.
“Slurred speech, facial droop, paralysis on the left side, he had basically no function in his left arm or left leg,” said Webster, who’s been with the school for the last six years.
Griffin initially balked at the idea of needing emergency attention.
“I’m goin’ Cole, I am not having a stroke,” he said. “Put me in that Gator and get me over to the bench and just set me down and get me a drink of water. I’m not going to the emergency room.”
Webster never hesitated.
“He thought he had a choice but he didn’t,” he said. “I obviously wasn’t going to allow that to happen.”
Webster forced Griffin into a car where he was transported to Independence for emergency attention. Griffin was able to receive tPA, a clot-busting drug, with thirty minutes. That quick action not only prevented further damage to Griffin’s brain, but likely saved his life.
“He saved my life. I know he did,” said Griffin. “I just appreciate the fact that he was so persistent and recognized what was going on and wouldn’t listen to a stubborn old fart, and got me in there and got me to the hospital.”
Since his stroke, Griffin has been rehabbing in Nebraska, working to regain his speech, vision and mobility on the left side of his body. The retired school administrator told 41 Action News over the phone Friday morning he was being released later in the day. Currently he’s able to walk with a cane and is currently only immobile with his left arm.
Griffin is thankful Oak Grove had a full-time athletic trainer on staff like Webster.
“It’s something Oak Grove district needs to be commended on. Because that is a big sacrifice. It’s a big chunk out of your budget. But it is well worth the money and I would encourage all school districts to find some way to fund that,” said Griffin.
Centerpoint Medical Center, who contracts with Oak Grove, confirmed to 41 Action News that it’s very rare for a school the size of Oak Grove (650 students) to have a full-time athletic trainer on campus year-round.
Oak Grove High School principal Adam Salmon said they’re the envy of the conference.
“They might hire somebody for a tournament they host or something like that. But they just don’t have the day-in and day-out access,” he said. “I think the one word that comes to my mind most when it comes to Cole Webster is invaluable.”
“Take this situation for example. It happened during summer camp. Most schools don’t have somebody there during the summer. Had we not had the full-time scenario of me being here, the situation could have went a different direction,” said Webster.
Webster will receive the ‘Brain Saver Award’ from the American Heart Association Friday night at the Oak Grove football game shortly before the 7 p.m. kickoff. AHA told 41 Action News it’s an award they give out only once or twice a year.
“Without him being there with me that day I don’t know what would have happened,” said Griffin.
Before joining Oak Grove football as an assistant coach last year, Griffin was an assistant at Clinton High School for eleven years and coached at Oak Park for six. He was also assistant principal at Richmond for seven years and superintendent at Hardin-Central High School for five years.
The AHA and American Stroke Association would like everyone to remember the acronym F.A.S.T. in order to recognize stroke symptoms:
- F – Face weakness
- A – Arm weakness
- S – Speech difficulties
- T – Time to call 9-1-1
According to the AHA and ASA, stroke is the fifth most-common cause of death and claims the lives of more than 134,000 people every year.
Josh Helmuth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org