Ellis Battles Heart Condition, Continues to Coach

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By WSIL Sports

DU QUOIN -- The walk to the field isn't something Keith Ellis takes for granted anymore.

"It's just a blessing to be able to go out there."

Du Quoin's defensive coordinator was diagnosed with congestive heart failure two years ago. He had two open heart surgeries and was placed on the national transplant registry. Through it all, he's continued to coach. This season, Ellis hasn't missed a practice.

"There's been a lot of people praying and it's just answered prayers is what it is," the longtime coach said.

"We feel thankful that Keith has been able to do what he's done," Indians head coach Al Martin said. "We were very, very concerned. It seemed like Keith spent more time in Barnes Hospital throughout the winter than he did here around Du Quoin."

Keith credits the community in his recovery. Earlier this year, the town raised more than $15,000 during a benefit. All the proceeds helped fund out of pocket medical expenses.

"The support of the coaching staff and the faculty we have here and this community has been outstanding," Ellis said. "It's more than I could ever expect from anyone."

Ellis has spent countless days in and out of the hospital, traveling back and forth to St. Louis. Through it all, football has been his chance to get away.

"I think it gets his mind off of it," Indians junior linebacker Spencer Cook said. "Just being able to be around us and laugh and joke around and not even think about it."

"When you have that kind of adversity that we've had, to be able to coach again; you're thankful every day that you have what you have," Ellis added.

During an appointment Wednesday, doctors gave Ellis the news he'd been waiting to hear.

"They're talking about taking me off the transplant list," he said. "It's been an answered prayer."

As his heart continues to get stronger, the chance for a full recovery grows. Meaning he can continue coaching for years to come.
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