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updated: 3/20/2014 5:31 PM

Hamill happy to get going again with Lakes

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  • Lakes softball coach Bill Hamill is ready for the softball season after suffering a heart scare last summer.

       Lakes softball coach Bill Hamill is ready for the softball season after suffering a heart scare last summer.
    STEVE LUNDY | Staff Photographer

 
 

Tuesday wasn't a good day to be slopping around and shoveling heavy snow off a softball field for Bill Hamill. Never mind that like every softball coach, he's dying to get on an outdoor diamond and spank line drives to his players.

Forget that a year ago, Lakes' hearty coach wouldn't have thought twice about doing any strenuous exercise.

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"I told my assistant (coach), when (doctors) tell me I can do almost anything, exercise-wise -- just don't lift weights because that puts an excessive strain on your heart -- I'm guessing they'd probably be telling me that I'm not supposed to be throwing wet snow out here, either," Hamill said with a laugh.

Thank goodness for snowblowers, which Hamill ultimately chose for removing snow off his field.

More snow might sprinkle ball fields before all is said and done this softball season, but don't bet on Hamill lamenting. He's happy to be coaching his team after getting a health scare last May.

That's when a physical, which should have been as routine as a groundball to shortstop, revealed a murmur in his heart.

"I was like, 'I've never been told that before,' " Hamill said. "I went to have an echocardio (test), and that's when they told me I had a severely leaking aortic valve."

Summer wasn't fun. Hamill's mother passed away in July. A nonsmoker, she was diagnosed with lung cancer a year and a half earlier and had part of her lung removed. Last summer, she developed pneumonia, went into a seizure and passed away about a month later. She was only 66.

Then with the high school year starting up, Hamill's health made him step down as Lakes' boys golf coach. He was scheduled to have heart surgery last September, but he sought a second opinion.

He went to the famous Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

"They did a bunch of tests and they said, 'Yeah, you do have a severely leaking valve,' " Hamill said. "They did an angiogram and said, 'Your arteries are great. Your bloodwork's great. The only thing is, we'd like to see you lose a little bit of weight,' and I said (chuckling), 'Yeah, I'd like to see that too.' But they said, 'You don't need the surgery right now.' "

Instead, Hamill's doctors suggested he might be able to put surgery off for 3-5 years.

"They said, by that time, there might be something where they don't have to crack you open like a turkey and go through the chest," Hamill said. "They're looking at a (procedure) where they would go underneath the arm and through an artery. I was like, 'That, I would be OK with.' "

He spent two days -- two long days -- at Mayo.

"They ran me through every test that they could run me through," Hamill said. "They were pretty extensive. I was pretty happy with it."

So life went on for the father of three and grandfather of seven. That's right, grandfather of seven. Hamill, who just turned 48, has two daughters, ages 26 and 22, from his first marriage, as well as soon-to-be-5-year-old Will from his second marriage.

He loves life. So no wonder he was scared about possibly having heart surgery. His grandfather passed away at age 67 due to an enlarged heart.

Hamill learned he has a bicuspid aortic valve, as opposed to a tricuspid valve, which most people have.

"(Heart surgery) did (scare me) because I know how they crack your chest, and my ex-father-in-law had just had open-heart surgery," Hamill said. "I knew how painful it was for him when he came back from the hospital and how he couldn't do anything for quite some time."

Despite the leaking valve, Hamill doesn't suffer from shortness of breath. After his initial visit to Mayo, he was going back every two months for checkups.

"(The doctor) said, 'The one thing we're worried about right now is when that left ventricle starts to enlarge in size' -- because the blood keeps going back into the heart. He said, 'Then we'd want to do (the surgery) because you'd be enlarging your heart, and that's irreversible.' "

Because there's been absolutely no change in his heart in the last six months, Hamill doesn't have to go back to Mayo until September. His last visit was on Dec. 9.

In the meantime, he gets his blood pressure checked regularly. He says he takes a postasium-based medicine to strengthen the valve in his heart.

"It's nice to know that the arteries and blood work are excellent," Hamill said. "You don't like to know that you have a leaky valve, but I feel good. I can get on the treadmill, and I can run without having any problems.

"It doesn't bother me. It doesn't slow me down."

Thank goodness for that. He was concerned that he'd have to give up coaching softball, too. In five seasons as Lakes' head coach, he has an even 100 wins.

"Golf was hard to give up and softball would be even harder, because that's something I've done for over 20 years," Hamill said. "I raised my daughters up playing softball, and my son plays baseball."

He'll continue to enjoy being Daddy. Grandpa. And coach.

Even if it snows.

jaguilar@dailyherald.com

• Follow Joe on Twitter: @JoeAguilar64

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