Sunday, May 25, 2014

Failure Coach XLVI

Win one for the coach

“Friggin’ Siena had a heart attack. I shit you not, Alan. His wife called me because she couldn’t get through to you. The guy’s in the hospital in Saint Louis because she wanted to make sure he got the best care. So he’s at Missouri Baptist in Town & Country. I don’t know anything more except they want him to stay at least a couple of days for observation.” Bob Caster didn’t waste any time breaking the news. He knew Alan would want to get there as soon as he could. He pulled his Escalade into the hospital even as Caster was still on the phone. Alan had been on his way home when he took the call. When he arrived at the hospital’s Heart Center he found Coach Siena’s wife in a family waiting area talking to the doctor.

“Most heart attacks are the result of coronary heart disease, a condition that clogs coronary arteries. As blood flow is gradually impeded, the body may compensate by growing a network of collateral arteries to circumvent blockages,” The doctor was efficient and spoke almost as if scripted. Mrs. Siena was grateful they arrived in time. She was also happy she insisted on the drive to Saint Louis instead of any of the local medical resources in the Red Bud vicinity. The doctor agreed that she made the right decision, even though a heart attack is a medical emergency that must be addressed quickly.

Alan invited the coach’s wife to stay with him at his home in Chesterfield for as long as she wished but as it turned out the 45 minute drive back and forth from Red Bud gave her time to think. In those first two days of the coach’s stay at MOBAP she was able to learn from the doctor and her own online research that once past the critical phase of a heart attack, patients continue to receive beta blockers to slow the heart, nitrates to increase heart blood flow, and blood thinners or aspirin to prevent further blood clotting. She also learned that most people survive a first heart attack and go on to live a full and productive life. But Robert Siena was not most people. He expired on the third day of his stay at the Missouri Baptist Heart Center.

This last conversation with the doctor was not so smooth. He tried like hell to be calm and efficient as he was after Coach Siena was first admitted for observation. “Most sudden cardiac deaths are caused by abnormal heart rhythms called arrhythmias. The most common life-threatening arrhythmia is ventricular fibrillation, which is an erratic, disorganized firing of impulses from the ventricles (the heart's lower chambers). When this occurs, the heart is unable to pump blood and death will occur within minutes.” He stopped and took a few deep breaths. “Coach didn’t make it in spite of our best efforts to save him.” This time Alan Edgewater was not nearby to comfort her and Bob Caster was again in the telephone loop. Upon hearing this news from Bob, Alan immediately called Jan Abbeshire and asked her to meet at the St. Louis Bread Company on Ballas road. When she arrived, Alan, Bob and the Coach's wife were seated at a table with bagels, cream cheese and coffee of which they only noshed.  

This impromptu meeting addressed condolences, funeral arrangements, the dismissal of any thoughts of legal action (for the moment anyway), the future of the AEFFSF and plans to complete a timely obituary. The coach’s wife was a strong independent woman. She cried of course but only in short bursts when the discussion reminded her of recent conversations she and the coach had about their plans for their future together.

The obituary appeared the next day in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Monroe County Republic Times and Belleville Democrat local newspapers  

Robert “Coach” Siena - Robert passed away due to complications of heart disease on May 15 at the age of 62. Robert was a resident of Red Bud, Illinois where he was a teacher for more than 27 years. He led the Red Bud Musketeers as head football coach for 18 of those years until his retirement. Coach Siena received some notoriety as a spokesman for the Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund, a trust he established to award full and irrevocable college scholarships. He is survived by his wife Irene.

Services: A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, 4431 Lindell Blvd., at Newstead Ave., St. Louis on June 15, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. Private services will include interment at Bellefontaine Cemetery and reception at the family home in Red Bud. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are appreciated to the American Heart Association or the Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund.

Irene Siena was a wealthy woman but you would never guess it. She wanted more than anything for the AAFFSF program to continue. She had become somewhat attached to Red Bud footballer, Johnny Appleseed. She loved Andrew Valentine and was thrilled when Alicia Apricot was selected for the award. She encouraged Alan Edgewater and, by extension, Jan Abbeshire along with the team at Abbeshire & Bluestone continue.

The Funeral Mass at the Basilica, a month later, spared no expense. In attendance were nearly 150 people including: Fontenot and several regional sales executives from Sazerac; dozens or former football team members; Alan Edgewater; Jan Abbeshire and Daniel Bluestone; Bob Caster and his wife; Laurie Ripp; Tony Blank from Ambrosia; and a variety of Red Bud friends and associates. In addition, Daniel Bluestone used the occasion to rally Brie Baker from the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin; Rachel Davis and two of her associates from Rachel Davis Fine Arts; and several of his freelancer associates from South Florida. (Dan made it worth their while with accommodations and prepaid airfares in the name of creative and strategy development.) And Jan also encouraged several clients (past and present) particularly those with Catholic affiliations who would bask in the pomp and ceremony at the Basilica presided over by high ranking clergy.

Johnny Appleseed gave a heartwarming eulogy and Andrew Valentine (at the urging of Brie Baker) sang Hallelujah, this time for a larger audience (including local media) and Alan Edgewater was electric as the champion of the coach as a shining example of leadership at its finest. “The best coaches preach practice and sacrifice and instill in successful teams the skills and discipline that will increase the likelihood of success all the time knowing that other greater lessons about life are acquired along the way. That being said, I urge you to carry on as you have and prepare for victory. If you fall short, get up, brush yourself off and forge ahead. I assure you the coach will be watching you.”

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