Life saved: Former pro football player thanks hospital team for careJune 20, 2023News for Immediate Release:
Former professional football kicker John “Jack” Simcsak has been through a lot in life: knee and hip replacements, pins in his toes and shoulders and open-heart surgery. Now, he can add a life-threatening case of sepsis to the list.
The former Virginia Tech kicker, who was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 1971, almost died in April when a urinary tract infection suddenly took a turn for the worse.
“It was the worst thing I’ve ever been through in my entire life,” he says.
One thing that made it a little easier to endure, he says, was the outstanding care he received from the doctors and nurses at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital in Murrells Inlet.
It all happened quickly: Simcsak, who volunteers helping to train young kickers across South Carolina, began experiencing discomfort while urinating one night around 11 p.m. By 6 a.m., he had a fever.
He wasn’t exactly sure what was going on, but as someone with a mechanical heart valve, he knew a potential infection was nothing to ignore. So, he and his wife headed to Tidelands Waccamaw, where he was admitted. He didn’t feel well, but he was alert and eating Jell-O.
Suddenly, after being in the hospital for a few hours, Simcsak began struggling to breathe and his fever spiked to 106 degrees.
“I’ve had open heart surgery, numerous orthopedic surgeries from football, and I’ve never been in this situation where I couldn’t breathe, feeling like I’m going to die any second,” he says. “I just remember telling my wife, ‘I’m dying.’”
He doesn’t remember much of what happened next, but later learned a rapid response team of doctors and nurses came to the room to get him breathing again. Infection by a strain of the E. coli bacteria had led to sepsis, a potentially fatal condition that occurs when an infection causes a chain reaction throughout the body.
Simcsak credits his wife, who was by his side and promptly called for help, and his care team for saving his life, but Tidelands Health emergency medicine physician Dr. Jay Johnson, who was part of the team that cared for him at Tidelands Waccamaw, says Simcsak helped himself, as well.
“Things get very tricky with sepsis. Patients can go from doing really well one second and then all of a sudden they’re pretty close to death,” Dr. Johnson says. “I applaud him for seeking treatment. If he had waited too much longer, he could have gone into septic shock at home and died.”
Now out of the hospital and done with weeks’ worth of antibiotic infusions, Simcsak wanted to be sure to thank not only his doctors at the hospital, including Dr. Johnson, Dr. Yama Osmanzai and Dr. Aimee Shock, but the nurses, support staff and everyone else who helped take care of him when he needed it the most.
He took the unusual step of going back to Tidelands Waccamaw recently to say thanks in person. In telling his story to some of the staff members there, he got emotional, he says.
“That’s how thankful I am for these people. I’m 75 years old, and I’m still very active with coaching — I’m not ready to cash my chips in yet,” he says. “It was a heck of a journey, and I’m glad I’m here to be able to talk about it.”
About Tidelands Health
Tidelands Health is the region’s largest health care provider and MUSC Health affiliate, serving the Carolinas at four hospitals and more than 60 outpatient locations. More than 2,500 employee, physician and volunteer partners work side by side with our communities to transform the health of our region – promoting wellness, preventing illness, encouraging recovery and restoring health.Contact:Dawn Bryant, Senior Communications Strategistdbryant@tidelandshealth.org, 8436521636
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