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BOGACZYK: Herd's Price Gets to Heart of the Matter

April 7, 2015

By JACK BOGACZYK

HERDZONE.COM COLUMNIST

            HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- There's something different about Marshall's spring football practice in 2015, and it's not just the intensely followed search for a starting quarterback among 11 starters that need to be replaced.

            Only half of a defensive line coaching tandem that leaves emotions pretty much unchecked is into business as usual. So, while ends coach Sean Cronin, yells, slaps the top of helmets in encouragement and gets in players' grills, tackles coach J.C. Price paces close to the sideline, twirling the lanyard on his whistle.

            Next Monday, for the second time in six months, Price will undergo a heart procedure to deal with atrial fibrillation. During the Herd's 13-1 nationally ranked season, the former Virginia Tech All-American nose guard spent several games in the coaches' box rather than on the sideline after an Oct. 22 cardiac ablation.

            The defensive tackles coach said Dr. Esam Baryun, an electrophysiologist at St. Mary's Heart Center, will do the cauterization procedure.


 

 

            Price said he was fine for several months, but his symptoms have returned -- and worse this time. He was playing one-one-one basketball -- wearing flip-flops -- with one of his young daughters when he had to call a timeout.

            Spring practice has been one of practicing patience for Price.

            "Crazy man Price has had to calm down," said Price, who is in his fourth year on Coach Doc Holliday's staff. "I've had to calm my butt down ... It's hard to coach, especially at the position we have. It's hard to coach that way. I mean, every position is juice, energy, but specifically up front you need to have the energy.

            "And for me to not bring it, I hate it. But the great thing is Doc and everybody else has been supportive, 100 percent behind me, like they were the last time. And I hope this is the last time I have to go through this, get it knocked out and fixed this time."

            Price, 42, said he wasn't surprised his enlarged heart has gone more than a-flutter.

            "The heart is like an electrical circuit, and like any circuit that connects and it's not working, they try to break it, basically burn a line in the top part of your heart and it interrupts the electrical circuit so your heart doesn't fire as often.

            "I knew there was a percentage of chance that it wouldn't be successful, that they wouldn't get it all on the first try with what they called a `light burn.' This is basically the same procedure although it might be a larger burn.

            "The last time they went in through my femoral artery (in the thigh) with a scope and a laser and they burn part of your heart. I'm not sure how they'll do it this time, through my groin or my armpit, but that's a guess. The last time it was outpatient, but this time they say I may be staying in the hospital one night."

            He's hoping to not miss much work, as Holliday's team goes into Week 4 of five weeks of spring drills next Tuesday. But the priority for Price is getting back to what he loves without issues.

            "Actually, it's quite common," Price said when asked about his heart issues. "I have an enlarged heart due to being an athlete. I think a lot of athletes deal with this, and something I didn't know, a lot of people with sleep apnea can have it.

            "I've been checked for sleep apnea, but don't have the results yet. If you're a bad snorer, you might have sleep apnea and if so, maybe you should get checked for a-fib, too."

            He said he might have waited until spring drills end on April 25 with the Green and White Game, but it reached the point where he couldn't function in his job the way he wants.             "It's something I could have put off, but my symptoms have gotten progressively worse, especially during practice," Price said. "So, it's something you want to get taken care of so I can start to get back to normal. You get tired of trying to live your life in third gear.

            "It's to the point where I can't stop it (irregular heartbeat). When I'm at practice, sometimes I can feel my heart start racing and I can stop talking and kind of chill out for a minute, stop what I'm doing and it kind of goes away.

            "But there have been times at practice where I try to do that and I haven't stopped the symptom and I go into a-fib and get lightheaded. And when I do that, then that's when I'm in danger.

            "When you're 42, you don't want to take pills the next 40 years of your life. I've tried different medications and that hasn't really seemed to fix it, either, so we go back in. Dr. Baryun is one of the top doctors to do this in the region and hopefully we'll knock this out."

            Price said he never knew he had an enlarged heart "until the last two or three years" and didn't know the upper chamber of his heart was faulty until his symptoms last year.

            "One thing I did know," Price said with a grin. "I always knew I had a lot of heart."

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