Battistella the miracle man

By Ron Brocato, Sports

The Battistellas give thanks to God every day for the return to health of the family patron, Greg.

Battistella, who has spent 26 years as a baseball coach at Holy Cross, Pope John Paul II and now Lakeshore high school, suffered a stroke during a football jamboree game in late August.

Doctors at Slidell Memorial and Tulane University Medical Center didn’t know if he would survive. But “Bat” never doubted it for a second.

“I thank God for what he’s done for me,” Battistella said as he readied himself to do a television commercial for Ochsner Hospital where he is undergoing outpatient therapy. His recovery was miraculous.

“The doctors at Ochsner said I was a good patient and asked me to do this commercial for them.”

On the day of the stroke, Battistella had driven the football team to Slidell High on the team bus with no incidents. He takes blood pressure medicine but left the pills in the glove box of his car.

“At halftime, I told the team doctor, ‘My left hand and foot were asleep.’

“He told me, ‘You’re having a stroke.’”

Battistella went to the restroom but did not have the feeling in his hand to unbuckle his belt. Then he lost feeling in his right hand.

“I handed the keys to the bus to an assistant coach.” Battistella, 46, then collapsed and was rushed to the nearest hospital via the EMS ambulance that was on standby outside the stadium. “My blood pressure had spiked to something like 198 over 150,” he said.

An assistant phoned Mrs. (Rachel) Battistella to tell her there was an emergency.

The prognosis was not good. The doctors discussed  the option to perform brain surgery to alleviate the pressure. Fortunately, it was not necessary.

“I knew I was going to overcome this. I wanted to be back on the sideline and was determined to get back,” Battistella said.

After four weeks of inpatient therapy, Battistella showed remarkable improvement.

“Three weeks after the stroke I was able to walk with a cane. I got out of inpatient rehab in five weeks.”

He and older daughter Caitlyn attended a volleyball match between Pope John Paul II at Mount Carmel. Rachel Battistella is a volleyball coach at PJP. Younger daughter, Kendall, is a member of the Lady Jaguars team.

Battistella walked into the gym, placed the cane under his arm and walked with Caitlyn holding his arm. He was wearing a victory smile.

The good news about his condition continues.

“I played golf this past weekend and had a bogey,” he said.

Is that good? “No, before the stroke, I held  a single-digit handicap.”

He also challenged Caitlyn to a joust, using canes as weapons of choice. “She beat me, which I’m not used to. She and I are tennis partners.”

As therapy continues at Ochsner, Battistella said he has 90 percent of the feeling back in his left extremities.

“Last week was my first game back on the (football) sidelines. “And if all goes to plan, I will be back in the classroom in January.

“I want to be coaching the baseball team when the season starts. I’ll let my assistants coach the bases. There are a lot of great coaches who coach from the dugout,” he noted.

If his team has the same determination displayed by its coach, Lakeshore should have a banner season.

Ron Brocato can be reached at rbrocato@clarionherald.org.

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