MOUNT PLEASANT, Michigan – Jay mcdowell is the class clown you remember from high school, your stepbrother making you laugh at otherwise dry family functions, the trusty teddy bear you want on your side should be in trouble.
Quick-witted and affable, âJay Macâ is a constant presence in the Central Michigan football program. The Louisiana native is now in his 11e year as the video operations coordinator of the Chippewas, a vital part of the program’s machinations for both team assessment and opponent scouting. He was twice named MAC Video Coordinator of the Year during his time at CMU.
He can’t wait to get back to the football field with the Chippewas and get back to his office. This could happen as early as August 1. That he’s on track to meet that goal is sort of a miracle after what he’s been through for the past six months.
It was the fight of his life as he literally fought for his life.
“I have said it a million times, and I have told my wife and my doctors, that whenever the day comes when I have to meet my maker, I hope I can stay there physically and emotionally exhausted. so he would know I used whatever he gave me, âMcDowell said. “It’s just the way I approached it; it’s the only way I approached it.”
The demands of his job, including the necessary travel, had gradually taken their toll on his surgically repaired back. Yet he continued to work.
âI’m going to do what I’m supposed to do,â McDowell said in his distinctive Creole trailing accent from Louisiana. “I’m not going to leave my team or my coaches dry.”
Towards the end of CMU’s shortened COVID schedule in November, McDowell said he woke up in the morning after a game with now constant back pain.
A trip to the emergency room and a short hospital stay to resolve lingering back problems led to McDowell becoming infected with COVID-19 and bigger issues to come.
âYes, my back hurts, but something else just didn’t feel right,â said McDowell, who is almost three decades into a career as a video coordinator that took him from southern Mississippi to Colorado and Louisiana Monroe. “I had hot flashes, a little headache.
âI went from Monday morning just a little sore to Monday night, I was fully and under 24 hour surveillance in intensive care with COVID,â he said.
Work and fight
Despite being in the intensive care unit, McDowell continued to work remotely on his laptop while his football video team, made up entirely of students, carried out daily training and sports duties. video games.
âThe doctors and nurses were yelling at me, ‘Stop working!’ McDowell said. âThey’re like, ‘Get out of the computer!’ And I would say, ‘No, I have to finish this.’ “
As a heavyweight fighter, McDowell managed to stay upright, figuratively speaking, until the final round bell, the Chippewas’ last game of the season.
“I got through the season before it all fell apart,” he said. âWhen it was all over, I finally let go and relaxed. After that game, that’s when things got really bad.
“The only thing I have is what people told me that happened. I have no recollection.”
Good thing. It wouldn’t be a pleasant memory.
McDowell suffered a ruptured colon and, making matters worse, doctors were unable to operate immediately due to COVID. McDowell has fallen into a coma and will not have surgery until Christmas Eve, when doctors removed about 30 inches of his small intestine.
âThey cut me just under my chest to about two inches past my waist,â he said. âThey opened up to me.
Other complications followed, including difficulty breathing and a low heart rate. He was transferred to a hospital in Midland and placed under the care of a heart specialist, spending another week in a coma.
“I don’t remember anything,” said McDowell, who, even at 47, appears to be able to strap on the pads and play defensive end, his healthy 280 pounds spread evenly over a 6-foot-4 athletic frame; and his long hair slicked back into a ponytail give him the image of a tough biker, denying an ever-present friendliness.
âThe nurses and the doctors were amazing,â he said. “The women in rehab were first class, that doesn’t begin to describe the way they treated me. I wasn’t just someone; they actually saw a husband, father, son. lying in bed.
âThey saved my life.
He lost around 70 pounds, needed a round-the-clock assistant, and when he returned to Alma Hospital from Midland, he encountered more digestive complications.
âI went from training like crazy toâ¦ it took everything I had to turn my head left and right,â he said. “When I was in a coma, they told my wife that you might want to start sorting out your own affairs because they didn’t think I was ever going to get out of it.”
And yet he did. He weighs 70 pounds less than his playing weight – “210 is the lightest weight I have been since college” – he said.
“They were absolutely amazed that I stepped down,” he said. “All the doctors in Midland were absolutely amazed that I was leaving. I said to them, ‘Well, I’m here to piss people off, I love it.'”
After 81 days in the hospital, “Jay Mac” returned home in February with his wife Misty and children, son Dakota, 17, and daughter Mia, 13.
“You can’t put it into words,” McDowell said normally speaking, his words stuck in his throat. âI don’t even want to know what was going through their heads. My kids had to be strong and God only knows what my wife went through; they couldn’t even come to see me (because of COVID). days I didn’t even speak to Misty on the phone because I didn’t even have the guts to do so.
The outpouring of support has been nothing short of remarkable, said McDowell, from those in the Chippewa football program and the sports department, to current and former players of over a decade. Supporters came from the coaches McDowell previously worked with in other stops across the country, his peers in the ranks of college football video coordinators.
Offerings, such as food and money, also poured into the family home in Mount Pleasant.
Print out and bind the encouragement messages left on McDowell’s Facebook page, and you would have the equivalent of a dictionary.
âA month and a half ago, two months ago, I finally had the courage to go back and read it all,â he says. “I am getting better every day. Surgery to reverse the colostomy. At this time my doctor plans that I will be back in the office on August 1.”
He has many reasons to be grateful and he realizes – if he hadn’t done so before – the impact he has had on so many people. It’s not about the skill or how you do the job, it’s about the man doing the job.
And who is this man inside.
âI’ve never worked a single day in my life,â McDowell said. âI don’t think I could do any other job. I don’t think it’s in me.
âYou put your faith where your faith needs to be, and then you fight. That’s all you can do. You take it every day; you can’t stop. They aren’t going to bury me yet. won’t happen. yet. “