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Updated Jul 28, 2013 - 9:57 am

Arizona Cardinals' Freddie Kitchens ‘fortunate' to be alive, coaching

GLENDALE - Less than two months removed from nearly losing his life, Freddie Kitchens is back on a football field, doing his job: Coaching the quarterbacks and doing so not any differently than he had done so before.

"If you watched the last two-minute (drill to end practice)," he said with a smile, "I think you would've seen that my heart is in great shape."

That wasn't the case June 4.

On the field, getting ready for an OTA practice, Kitchens started to feel chest pains.

"I heard a pop," he said Saturday. "I actually heard two pops, which made me be more aware of the things that were going to happen in the future, the near future like in the next 30 or 40 seconds. I heard the pop and then my vision kind of went blurry and bright; and then from there I started getting numbness in my leg. I didn't really what was going on, but I knew that it wasn't good."

No, it wasn't.

Kitchens, 38, had suffered an aortic dissection, a potentially life-threatening tear in the aorta. If not treated right away, he might bleed to death.

"The most important part happened was me getting to people that could help me, and that happened quick; and that part of it was the decisive factor in me being alive," he said.

Those people included the Cardinals medical staff (head athletic trainer Tom Reed and team physician Wayne Kuhl) and Dr. Andrew Goldstein who performed the surgery at the Arizona Heart Hospital later that evening.

"I was very fortunate in a lot of different ways," Kitchens said. "The week before (the team was) off and we were on sort of a vacation. It could've happened then and I would've been in trouble. It could've happened two hours later and I would've been in trouble. It could've happened a day later or a day earlier. It just happened to be that time. I was very fortunate to have the people around me that recognized what was going on and then got me to the proper people that could help me."

Head coach Bruce Arians called it a miracle, "It really is, that he's here and doing so well. It's like nothing ever happened."

Kitchens, whose been with the team since 2007, said he's still recovering—"energy is a little bit of a problem…that's to be expected"—and part of his recovery was making sure he showed up the first day of training camp to be on the field.

"I think, really, that's the best thing that could've happened to me was get back on the field and get around people that I'm familiar with and a job that I'm familiar with, especially since that's what I was doing whenever it happened," he said. "It's kind of come full circle so to speak."

So, Kitchens, the former Alabama signal caller (he was a three-year starter with 4,688 passing yards and 30 touchdowns), is again coaching up the quarterbacks, doing what his doctor told him to do: Getting on with his life.

"Sometimes when something like this happens to you—or with me, when this happened to me, you're wondering, ‘Well, what's next? What's going to happen now?' Well, nothing is going to happen," he said. "The facts are that the worst thing that could've happened to me missed its opportunity because I was in the right place at the right time."

About the Author

School: Syracuse University, '96

When you started with Bonneville Phoenix: December 1, 1999

Favorite sports memory: Game 7, 2001 World Series

Least-favorite sports memory: Game 1, 1988 World Series

Favorite all-time athlete(s): Larry Bird, Don Mattingly

Favorite sports movies: Hoosiers, Field of Dreams


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