Basketball Coaching Legend Don Meyer
On September 5, 2008, Don Meyer, the men's basketball coach at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, was heading up a convoy of six cars toward a team preseason retreat. Apparently falling asleep at the wheel, Meyer drifted over a lane and hit a semi-truck head-on going 50 mph. In the crash, all his left-side ribs were broken, he lost his spleen and parts of his intestines, and he endured multiple compound fractures of his left leg. Two weeks later, doctors amputated that leg below-knee.
As if that wasn't enough, when opening him up, surgeons discovered cancer in his liver. At the time, 64-year-old Meyer was only 11 victories shy of passing Bobby Knight as the all-time win leader in men's college basketball history.
"I wouldn't be alive today if it hadn't been for the team," Meyer said in a telephone interview. "I owe them an awful lot. They were right there, keeping me awake (until help arrived) and dialing 911 to get the helicopter there. Now they still keep me going. I don't think about all this other stuff (such as cancer and an amputation) when I'm thinking about them."
Using a manual wheelchair, Coach Meyer returned to his job for a November 18 contest against Mount Marty College, a 98-57 victory.
Where does he get his strength? "I have to be strong for our team now," he said. "When alone with my wife, I might not be as strong, and I might break down and cry and wonder how I'm going to deal with (the cancer). When you are with people you work with, it's easier to be strong."
He expressed a much greater appreciation, understanding, and empathy for below-knee amputees. He doesn't have all the answers, he said, and has been just as scared as anyone would be. He lamented not being able to do many things once taken for granted, such as taking the old newspapers out for recycling to help his wife. Around home, he uses a walker as much as possible.
As for passing Knight, Meyer said, "The only important thing now is the next practice. It's a day by day thing. It's the team at hand that's the most important. If you take care of that, those other things (such as winning) will take care of themselves."
Next week: How Coach Meyer copes.
LittleGiantFudge.com and Palmer Bus Service make this column possible.
Daniel J. Vance is a licensed professional counselor and national certified counselor from Vernon Center, Minn. His weekly newspaper column Disabilities has been published in more than 260 newspapers.
Daniel J. Vance may be reached at www.danieljvance.com
Placer County News HeadlinesStem Cell Grants for Spina Bifida and Diabetic Wound TreatmentsThe state stem cell agency, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), awarded a pair of grants totaling more than $7 million to UC Davis School of Medicine
Top 100 Paying Jobs in California (Part 6)Part 6 in our series on the Top 100 Paying Jobs in California.
$11.5 Billion Backlog at National ParksThe National Park Service recently released its fiscal year deferred maintenance statistics for national parks
Roseville Crime Report Digest Update (3.30.15)The Roseville Police Department's crime report digest update
Nelson Earned PhD Despite Three Disabilities"I grew up in a time when no one understood ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)," said 53-year-old Eric Nelson of Sacramento, California, in a telephone interview.
Kia Sedona Minivan Delivers More in Redesigned VersionKia redesigned its minivan and didn't hesitate to make some significant changes. Borrowing a time-honored line when it comes to remodeling, the 2015 Kia Sedona arrived new and improved.
U2 Tour 2015: Tickets Selling QuicklyU2 will return to the stage on May 14 north of the border at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia to kick off their 2015 Innocence + Experience World Tour
Sierra College CACT Partnership Wins AwardSierra College, the California Conservation Corps and Golden Sierra Job Training Agency were recognized by the Placer County Economic Development Board
David Boesch Honored at North Lake Tahoe Awards DinnerPlacer County Executive Officer David Boesch was presented the Public Servant of the Year Award at the North Lake Tahoe 61st Annual Community Awards
Garth Brooks Tickets: Six Nights in SacramentoSaddle up cowboys and cowgirls! Garth Brooks will be making the first California appearance on his current world tour
Vacation Deals: On Tight BudgetsLet's face it, we all love our vacation time. A time to break off from everyday routines, ditch a portion of the responsibility we call life and enjoy doing what we love
Joyce and Jim Raley Teel & Joseph Gallo HonoredMore than 700 guests came out to honor Joyce and Jim Raley Teel, Raley's Family of Fine Stores and Joseph E. Gallo at their induction into the California Grocers Association Educational