"I'm still shocked" - Massive heart attack takes Whitmer coach completely by surprise

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Bill Syroka lived an active, healthy lifestyle. Working out. Eating right. The former Start basketball player could even be found playing hoops from time-to-time.

So what happened to him during a Friday night basketball game on January 26 on the sidelines of Clay High School, came as a complete shock.

"Not expecting it at all. I'm still shocked," Syroka said. "I try to do everything I'm supposed to do, walk steps, park out in the parking lot far away, I try to do all the little things, workout, try to eat right. I was very surprised."

Syroka coached the JV game with no issues. It wasn't until he was sitting on the sidelines of the varsity game, watching his son play, that he knew something wasn't right.

"Sitting there midway through the third quarter of the varsity game and I just didn't feel right. Started sweating, getting really hot and sweaty," he said. "I asked Coach Parker sitting next to me to get me some water, that didn't do anything, so I just kind of knew something was different."

At first, Syroka thought he might be getting the flu, but the intense pain in his chest was something he'd never felt before.

"So I just kind of got up, walked away so I didn't cause a scene. I walked to the back corner and told our trainer Dave to get my brother, who is a fire chief," he explained.

His brother, Rick, and a couple others came out of the stands to check on him. Shortly after, Syroka was in an ambulance heading to St. V's. Turns out Syroka was having a heart attack.

"You just don't know. You've never experienced anything like that, you don't know. You've always been healthy your whole life, never had issues with anything, and then, you just don't know," Syroka said.

With all four of his heart valves blocked, at first, his option was open heart surgery. But after getting a second opinion, the doctors agreed they could put stints in two of the valves and then unblock the other two with medication.

While in the hospital, all Syroka could think about was his wife and son.

"Number one that's all I could think about was seeing him and my wife. You don't know if you're ever going to get to do that again," he said.

Back at Clay, Whitmer Head Coach Ryan Brown had the difficult task of telling Syroka's son Trey, who's the starting point guard for the Varsity team, about his dad.

"It was difficult," Brown said. "When I got the position five years ago, Bill was the first person I hired, and Trey's been in this program since he was in third grade, so I've known their family for years, so I almost look at him as one of my own kids. So it was difficult."

Once the game started getting out of reach, Brown pulled Trey from the game, sat him down and told him his dad was taken to the hospital.

"I was basically the last person to find out. It was the end of the third quarter, going into the fourth, they pulled me out of the game and told me," Trey said.

To this day, over three weeks later, Trey doesn't talk too much about that night and the emotions it still brings.

"It's a scary moment because I could've lost my dad that day. I don't know where I would be without him," Trey said. "It's emotional to talk about just not having him in my life."

Syroka was released from the hospital five days later, returning to the court that very night.

"I just sat in the stands," Syroka said. "Some of the players came over to me. I wasn't doing any yelling or screaming, I was just watching."

Since then, Syroka's still keeping a low profile, working as an assistant while he continues recovering. But regardless of his role, his presence means so much to Trey.

"Having him back at practice is a big motivational thing for me because it was kind of scary for me during the middle of the game, I thought something really bad could've happened to him, but having him back here is good for me, good for my morale," Trey said.

It wasn't just the team and coaching staff that showed support during this time, the entire Whitmer community was also there, something Syroka said he's extremely grateful for.

And while Syroka is anxious to get through rehab so he can back to his workout routine and daily life, if there's one thing he's learned and is sharing with others from his situation, it's to keep an eye on everything.

"I would say, everyone always worries about how you look on the outside, but we need to do a better job of knowing what's going on, on the inside. That's how I have to live my life. Now I have to worry about what's going on, on the inside," Syroka said.