By Steve Joos.
It’s been a long haul, but North Posey athletic director Virgil Ferguson is getting back to work.
The longtime athletic director underwent a liver transplant on March 16 in Indianapolis and has been coming into the athletic department office in advance of the day when he’ll be released for work on Aug. 1.
“I’m just in here catching up on some paperwork right now,” Ferguson said. “It’s been a long process, but sometimes it feels like a short process at the same time.”
Ferguson’s troubles started over the last year when he started to become ill and a blood test found him to have a bad liver. After that diagnosis, the liver started deteriorating, with a pattern of illness and recovery, with each illness worsening until he blacked out in January with high levels of ammonia in his blood stream.
That landed Ferguson in the emergency room at Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, where he was placed in the intensive care unit, and then at the Indiana-Purdue Medical Center in Indianapolis, where he was stabilized and placed at the top of the list for a new liver. He received the new liver on March 16 and has been working on recovery since then, staying four days in intensive care, then another four days in the regular hospital.
After the period in the regular hospital, Ferguson was given the option of leaving the hospital, but he was not allowed to return to this area since it would be rough on the new liver, so he spent the next eight weeks living in a two-room suite at the Candlewoods Hotel, where he lived with his sister, Pam Burtonshall.
“The suite was $60 a night,” Ferguson said. “The bill was pretty high, but I’ve got good insurance and they’re helping me out on that. My rehabilitation has been mainly walking and my medicine. I can’t lift anything and I can’t play golf. I can’t lift my upper body until Aug. 1.”
Ferguson credited his sister with helping him throughout the process, adding that she had been there step by step in his surgery and recovery.
“They’re happy with my progress,” Ferguson said. “I’m five weeks ahead of a normal schedule, my blood work’s good and they see no problems.”
Ferguson’s doctors said that he was in good shape prior to the operation, adding that he had a good mental attitude and a good support system.
“I have had people who were looking after me and helping me,” Ferguson explained. “I said I’ve got my sister looking after me, but the doctor said you’ve also got your friends, your fellow (athletic directors) and prayer. Prayer was really the big thing. I really attribute it (the successful transplant and recovery) to prayer.”
He was told by the doctors that there were no guarantees prior to the operation, but he would have been surprised if Ferguson hadn’t survived the surgery and made a full recovery in a short period of time.
The Viking athletic director currently walks 2-3 miles a day (in the morning and afternoon) and he’s lost 115 pounds since first being diagnosed, going from 324 pounds around Christmas to a current weight of 209 pounds.
“For the first time I’ve ever had a doctor tell me I have to put weight on,” Ferguson said. “He wants me at 225 (pounds).”
Ferguson said that he missed his job and is anxious to get back to work, but he will be cutting back on his work load, as much due to his age (60) as the new liver.
Girls’ basketball coach Tracy Stroud, who served as interim athletic director during Ferguson’s absence is being considered for an assistant’s job, although nothing has been made official yet.
Ferguson thanked everyone for their prayers and the students for their get well cards.
“I got numerous get well cards from students and former students,” he said. “It makes you feel good to receive get well cards, but when you receive get well cards from freshmen, sophomores and juniors, it makes you feel wanted. The kids really like me. I don’t know why, because I holler at them, but they like me.”
Ferguson also thanked the Posey County News for its coverage of the Vikings.
By Steve Joos.
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