REGGIE HAYES: Longtime Fort Wayne football coach Tim Martone values matters of the heart after triple bypass

Northrop coach Tim Martone walks the sideline prior to a 2013 game with Bishop Dwenger at Zollner Stadium. (News-Sentinel.com file photo by Don Converset)
Tim Martone runs a Northrop High School football practice as the head coach in 2010, (File photo by news-sentinel.com)
Northrop's current coaching staff includes, from left: Mike Cheviron, Tim Martone, Jason Doerffler, Dean Doerffler and Mike Cochran. (News-Sentinel.com file photo by Blake Sebring)

Until the night he couldn’t catch his breath and found out he needed triple-bypass heart surgery, Tim Martone hadn’t been a patient in a hospital for 59 years.

In other words, since he was born.

“The nurse said, ‘Let’s talk about your medical history,’ ” Martone said. “I said, ‘I don’t have any.’ I didn’t even have a family doctor because I had not gone to one in a long, long time and if you don’t go, they drop you off the list.”

Martone, one of the most recognizable high school football coaches in the Fort Wayne area, looks back now and realizes he needs to take better care of himself. As he continues to recover from his Jan. 12 surgery, he needs to watch what he eats, get more exercise, and be more proactive if he senses something’s wrong.

After all, he downplayed the warning signs of his heart problem for at least three months.

In this regard, he’s like most football coaches and, truthfully, most men.

Martone remembers the start of his issues. He had finished a practice as quarterbacks coach at Northrop High School. His son, Ben, another coach, took off from the practice field to the school for a film session. Tim couldn’t keep up.

“This went on for a while, from about the middle of the football season all the way to October and November,” Martone said. “I kept having these little spells. I’d find myself sitting down, taking deep breaths, and they’d go away. Then I’d just go on. You know how coaches are.”

Martone is a coach through and through. He has taught elementary school (he’s at Brentwood) and coached football for 36 years. He’s been on the sidelines as an assistant at South Side, Northrop, Concordia and North Side. He was the head coach from 2010 to 2013 at Northrop. Now he’s back with the Bruins, assisting Jason Doerffler.

Football coaches tend to be hard-nosed, stubborn and maybe a little macho. Martone sports an upbeat, positive personality. He brushed off his warning signs as something he could handle without making a fuss.

He went to a clinic for a checkup in early December, but nothing significant was detected then. He passed the issues off as anxiety.

Then came New Year’s night. Martone was watching the college football playoffs with his family and a pain shot from his left arm up through his chest and into his right arm. He sat quietly and waited for it to pass. It passed. Then another shot of pain flared, and this one was much bigger.

He turned to his wife Amy and said, “I gotta go.”

The ambulance came, took him to Parkview Hospital Randallia, and he was transferred to Parkview Regional Medical Center. His doctor at Parkview told him arteries were blocked at 100 percent, 80 percent and 90 perecent. He was told he needed triple-bypass surgery.

By this time, it was Jan. 2, and the startling news came with another issue: The heart surgeons were on vacation because of the New Year’s and since Martone was then stable, the surgery would be scheduled as soon as possible. He went home on Jan. 5, knowing he had a week until surgery.

“There was a little bit of being nervous, but I had trust in the doctors and the medical people,” Martone said.

The surgery was successful and Martone went home on Jan. 16. He will remain off from school until after spring break, thanks to extra time he has accumulated over the course of his career.

“Everything’s been healing OK,” he said. “They put you to work, put you on these machines with your legs because they don’t want to mess with the chest and arms right now. They get your heart rate going.”

Getting his heart rate up, and his heart working well, has opened some new perspectives for Martone.

It has also reignited the coach in him. He sent out a tweet on Feb. 5 to the Northrop players, talking about his first day of rehab and encouraging Northrop players to follow his lead in improving and achieving goals.

Martone said he has received a barrage of cards and encouragement from players, former players, coaches and friends.

He recognizes he should have told people sooner about his chest pain – his wife wasn’t too happy he’d kept it quiet so long, he said – and encourages anyone who experiences a similar issue to seek immediate medical diagnosis.

“I had played and coached many years and I thought I was in great shape,” he said. “I knew I couldn’t do things like I used to. I now realize it was a little worse. Your body tells you there’s an issue.”

Martone looks forward to next fall, when he can be back in the coaching swing and feeling healthy again.

“I told the players I’m going to have a lot more energy,” he said. “So look out, I’m coming back. I’ll be ready to go.”

Martone sounds ready to pour his heart into coaching again. This time, his heart will be ready, too.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.

COMMENTS