Hall of Fame broadcaster Art Hains returns to Springfield to continue rehab
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The long road to recovery just got a little shorter for Hall of Fame broadcaster Art Hains.
He’s back in Springfield for the first time in eight months after stops in Kansas City and Nebraska as he recovers from a life-threatening bout with the West Nile Virus.
“Oh, wow. It means everything to be back in Springfield,” Hains said of his long-time goal of getting back home.
It’s a day many friends and family thought they’d never see after a strange journey that started last September 17 when Hains was returning home from Fayetteville after broadcasting a Missouri State football game against Arkansas. By the time he got to Springfield, the Voice of the Bears for more than four decades and host of the Chiefs’ pre-and-post-game radio shows, was losing the feeling in his legs.
Days later, his family was told that he might not survive.
“When we were leaving the stadium, I was carrying the radio equipment up and down a lot of hills,” Hains recalled. “After that, my legs started to ache, and I attributed that to the strain of walking with all that equipment. That was on Saturday, and on Tuesday, I collapsed in my doctor’s office, and I didn’t know much there for a while. I do remember the helicopter ride to the KU Medical Center.”
After some early confusion over the health issue, it was finally determined that the 67-year-old Missouri State, Springfield, and Missouri Sports Hall of Famer had the West Nile Virus, affecting his spinal cord and leaving him paralyzed and unable to breathe on his own.
“It’s just mind-blowing a mosquito bite can practically take your life,” Art’s son Chris Hains said at the time. “This happens to 700 people on the planet a year, and it’s extremely rare. Unfortunately, it affected his entire body all the way to the top of his head.”
“I don’t remember getting bit. I don’t remember where I was a bit,” Art said. “I usually just don’t pay attention to stuff like that, but I feel lucky to be here.”
After initial hospital stays in Springfield and the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Art was sent to Lincoln, Nebraska, for long-term rehabilitation and actually stayed in two rehab centers.
“One place in Lincoln had about given up on me, and that’s the more renown place there,” Art explained. “So we got in with another place, Ambassador Health, that was much better for us. Their physical therapy people were wonderful, and they really took me a long way in my recovery. But I might not be here had we not been able to make that move.”
Art’s recovery has not been without its hiccups, including bouts with pneumonia, but he can now breathe on his own, although he still has a trach tube in his windpipe.
“The reason the trach is still in is because you might have to have suction,” he said.
As for the paralysis that once extended from head to toe, Art has shown a lot of improvement that allowed him to be moved from Nebraska to a Springfield rehab center on Wednesday.
“The legs still aren’t working, and I’m not real optimistic, but I’ve had spasms in my feet, so I keep thinking one of these days I’m going to be able to move on my own,” he said. “But I’m not there yet. The arms and fingers are working to an extent. I’m practicing and relearning how to write. How to hold a pen at the proper angle. And I think I’m in fairly good mental health. I’m just trying to get the arms better and the legs to work. I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but maybe a few months, and then I hope to go home.”
As soon as he arrived at the Springfield facility, though, his first order of business wasn’t rehab to get a meal he hadn’t been able to get in Nebraska.
“Cashew chicken,” he said of his first food choice back home.
Art is also already planning on a return to broadcasting.
“This wheelchair I’m in can raise up or go back so I can be table-level at either basketball or football games,” he pointed out. “I think as far as our home games at Missouri State, I can be wheelchair accessible for those. Road games, I’m not sure. But we’re hoping to do that again. The Chiefs have told me my job is still available if I want it, and I would like to do it. But I still need to get my dexterity back with the computer, and I’ve got all summer. So we’ll see.”
Art was in Nebraska when the Chiefs won the Super Bowl over the Eagles 38-35 but did get to watch the game.
“My wife (Lisa) cooked a special dinner that night, and even though the game ran late, we stayed up and celebrated,” he said. “And we had ‘em all the way, right? It was quite a run, and we really enjoyed it.”
Art says he’s maintained a positive outlook despite the bizarre circumstances and appreciates the prayers and support from thousands of people from all over the country.
One of his most loyal supporters through it all, whose frequent visits kept his spirits up while going through the grueling rehab?
A new family dog named Gus, who his wife found while they were in Nebraska.
“Our last dog passed away just before this happened,” Art said. “Lisa rescued him at a shelter in York, Nebraska, and it’s meant a lot to have him around. I’ve been able to maintain a positive attitude throughout this whole thing that I was going to make it and get back to Springfield. To be back here watching KY3 News, reading the local newspaper, and just the familiar things like cashew chicken that’s all part of being home. Plus, all the good friends who are coming by to see me.”
Best wishes, Art. We’re glad you are back!! Keep up the fight!
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