Track and Field head coach Keith Barnier is back in the office after dealing with some severe health problems over Christmas break.
Barnier was diagnosed with pulmonary embolism, a blockage in the lung’s main artery last month. He had two blood clots and had to undergo a new procedure in emergency surgery to save his life. The blood clots were a side effect from simple wrist surgery that took place in early December to repair injuries from a bicycle accident over the summer.
A few days after the surgery, he noticed it was getting harder to breathe. And on Dec. 16, the day his family was set to fly to Jamaica for Christmas, he went to the hospital because he could hardly breathe.
“The doctor said if I would have boarded the plane to Jamaica I would have died,” Barnier said.
After the surgery, he stayed in intensive care from Dec. 23-25. Though his family and friends thought it was terrible to spend Christmas in the hospital, Barnier said he was happy because it meant he was alive and breathing.
“I was scared in the sense that I knew I could die from it, but I felt really calm because I knew the doctor was good, and I had people praying for me in my room and all over the country,” Barnier said.
The coaching staff was prepared to continue Barnier’s vision of the program during his absence, said assistant track coach Aaron Lund.
“God was definitely watching over him and our team knows that he has a second chance at life,” Lund said. “When our athletes step on to the track, they know how to fight and never give up, just like Keith did.”
Barnier went back to the doctor Jan. 25 for an irregular heartbeat, which the doctors fixed with a cardioversion, a procedure in which an abnormally fast heartbeat is converted back to normal rhythm using electricity or drugs.
“I’ve learned that when your heart stops beating, everything stops, so you better take care of yourself,” Barnier said. “Secondly, we’re all going to die so there’s nothing more important than your personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We had some good talks during my time in the hospital.”
Barnier recently got permission to travel with the track team to Texas A&M this weekend, which will be his first track meet of the season.
“Coach Barnier is our leader and the captain of our ship,” Lund said. “Having him back at the meets is a great feeling. He brings a whole different level of professionalism and authentic emotion that the athletes truly respect. When [they] see him at the meet, I know they will push a little harder to make their head coach proud.”