Feb 2, 2018
Life-Saving Call

In May 2017, Breanna Reyes, ATC, Athletic Trainer for Swimming and Diving at the University of South Carolina, got an unexpected call from a student-athlete’s roommate. As it turned out, Will Riggs, a sophomore on the swimming team, was having severe stomach pains.

A press release from the university posted on SwimSwam explains that Riggs and his friends thought he was suffering from food poisoning. But when he passed out from pain, they weren’t sure what to do.

“I didn’t want to go to the hospital at first because I just thought I was being a baby,” Riggs said. “Cody (Bekemeyer), my roommate at the time, called [Breanna Reyes], who is our athletic trainer. She said to go ahead and take me to the hospital. At that point, I could barely make it to the car, so clearly something was very wrong. All the way to the hospital, I was just screaming. I was apologizing to my friends because I felt like I was acting like such a lunatic.”

Reyes got in touch with McGee Moody, the Head Swimming Coach at the University of South Carolina, to let him know that Riggs was going to the E.R. From there, they got in touch with Riggs’ parents to let them know what was happening–although he had been given pain medication, it wasn’t helping.

“I received a call from [Reyes] that they were at the E.R., that Will was in a lot of pain, and that they may have to do surgery,” Moody said. “A few minutes later she called and said they had decided to do surgery. Then in the background, I heard a bunch of commotion. There was concern.”

The reason pain medication wasn’t helping was because Riggs’ intestines were twisted and cut off from the blood stream; none of the medication was making it there. An operation was needed, though the outcome was uncertain.

“Everything took place so quickly,” Moody said. “I live about 25 minutes away from the hospital. I was about 15 minutes out, when I received the call and was told he might not make it through surgery. I was having this internal battle of what I was going to tell his parents. Before I could park the car at the hospital, Dr. Guy called me and said ‘this was the best save I’ve ever seen.’ I had been calling Mrs. Riggs every five to ten minutes, and when Dr. Guy called me [the last time], I immediately picked up the phone and called her. Out of this being one of the most stressful nights of my coaching career; that was one of the best feelings of my coaching career.”

But the coaching staff didn’t call it quits once Riggs was out of danger. They were also there through the recovery process.

“Walking after surgery was really uncomfortable, and I remember one day, (Associate Head) Coach (Mark) Bernardino came in to the hospital,” Riggs said. “As I was walking my laps, he was walking with me. I kept seeing him look at his watch, and I said, ‘are you timing me?’ Sure enough, he had his little stopwatch out and was seeing how fast I was doing my laps and encouraging me to get better. He always wants to improve me, which I really appreciate. I was so lucky to have all those coaches by my side while I was there [in the hospital]. Just being at the hospital until three or four in the morning just shows how much they care. You’re not just a number on a team. You’re so much more than that.”

Image by Adrian Pingstone

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