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Former South Stanly football coach recovering after heart transplant

One local former football coach and educator joined a small group of people, approximately 5,000 each year worldwide, who have successfully received a new heart.

Charlie Phillips, the all-time leader in wins as a football coach at South Stanly and the former athletic director for both SSHS and the county, recently came home after undergoing heart transplant surgery.

Phillips recently came home after spending several weeks at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.

The former South coach was suffering from cardiomyopathy, a disease of the muscles in the heart which makes pumping blood through it difficult. Diagnosed in 2004, Phillips had a defibrillator placed in him 17 years ago and had controlled his condition through medicine.

About a month ago, however, Phillips said he knew he was feeling worse. An echocardiogram, which shows how much blood one’s heart pumps out, showed his heart was pumping out less blood from his original diagnosis.

Retired from coaching and teaching years ago, Phillips was still working, selling scoreboards to schools, while staying active playing golf with his friends and family.

Going into the hospital this past Groundhog Day for a heart catheterization, Phillips said he was told he could not go home yet.

“I had gotten to a place where I was going downhill fast,” Phillips explained, adding he had a heart pump called an impella put in, which forces blood out of the heart to the body.

Eventually, he got to where he needed a transplant and a donor heart was found two days before Valentine’s Day. The surgery started late the same day and in to the early hours of Feb. 13, lasting about eight hours, but the procedure was successful.

A record-setting coach, Phillips set another record when he was healthy enough six days after his surgery to come home, when the usual recovery time in a hospital is two weeks.

The coach also credited the staff at CMC Main.

“I could not ask for anyone better. If you work with heart patients, you have to care.”

Phillips will take anti-rejection medication and has to be careful about situations he is in because of a depressed immune system, especially in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He will also have a regular exercise regimen and will probably be seen on the golf course as well, he said. He also will return to his work selling scoreboards and would like to do some travelling once the COVID-19 situation gets better, including planning a trip to upstate New York to see his former player and current Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane.

Phillips said he can’t say enough about the support, from cards and letters to texts, emails and prayers he has received from former students, players, coaches and more.

“That’s played a major role in my recovery,” Phillips said, joking, “I’m certainly not sure I’m deserving of all that.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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