Hodges overcomes major heart surgery
By MICHAEL TODISCO | Thursday, March 3, 2011
When senior foilist Ted Hodges received a heart transplant a year ago, no one could have imagined that he would ever compete in another match. However, after a miraculous recovery, the fencer is back with the Irish and picking up victories both in competition and in his life.
As Hodges was finishing the 2008-09 school year, his life was interrupted and forever altered. When returning from a Texas hunting trip with friends, Hodges began to feel nauseas, feverish and fatigued. He was rushed to a local Salina, Kan., hospital, where a doctor recognized his illness as myocarditis, a virus that targeted his heart.
He was transferred to a larger Kansas hospital, barely surviving the flight. Upon arrival, he slipped into cardiac arrest and needed 39 minutes of CPR to save his life. With his lungs, kidneys and heart all beginning to fail, he was hooked up to a life-support machine, on which he was reliant for the next three months.
A stroke suffered at the hospital further complicated Teddy’s illness. He was placed in a medically induced coma for nearly a month and had trouble communicating when he awoke.
Hodges remembers both the mental and physical anguish he endured during those months spent in the hospital.
“The stroke occurred in the left side of my brain, thus stripped much of my vocabulary and severe numbness through my extremities,” Hodges said. “It was a horrific feeling because I was mentally formulating questions but cannot physically speak. For example, I would try to ask, ‘Can I get a glass of water?’ and I could not convey the question. From the physical side, it was just very tiring. I could not get out of my bed at all for about the first two months, so it was very tiring to even stand up.”
The next challenge was preparing for a heart transplant. He knew that it was the one way he would be able to live.
“There was no option for the surgery,” he said. “My heart did not respond to any of the earlier procedures and it became apparent that I would have to have the transplant.”
After a successful surgery, Hodges was still unsure whether he would be able to continue his fencing career. However, he soon found that fencing was an outlet to facilitate his mental and physical rehabilitation.
“Working out physically became a wonderful refuge to avoid the problems associated with the stroke,” Hodges said. “Getting back into fencing condition really wasn’t too bad because it felt so wonderful to get the alternative to the three months in the hospital,” Hodges said.
Hodges said the Notre Dame community has been paramount in his recovery, culminating in his return to campus this fall.
“There are so many wonderful people involved in our community and the Notre Dame family has really shone through adversity,” he said. “I have been so grateful for the constant support from all those involved. It might sound bad to other communities, but I truly believe that many other communities could not have provided such a level of support that I received from the Notre Dame family,” he said.
A natural athlete, Hodges lettered three times in both football and tennis in high school, while training at a private fencing club. He began college as a defensive back on the University of Kansas football team. When he learned that his club fencing coach, Gia Kvaratskhelia, had signed on at Notre Dame, Hodges decided to follow him to South Bend.
“After talking to Gia, I realized that I had a wonderful opportunity,” Hodges said, remembering his decision to come to Notre Dame. “Fencing with Gia and my teammates and receiving a top-level academic education.”
His unbelievable journey and recovery was capped off at the January Notre Dame Duals that Kvaratskhelia dubbed Teddy’s “coming out party.”
“For the return to Notre Dame Duals, it was wonderful to see everybody cheering for me,” Hodges said.
“To be honest, I still have the competitive drive and I really, really wanted to win that first bout,” Hodges said.
Hodges won that bout and 14 more that day. Although much has changed over the past 18 months, it seems as though Hodges still has the heart of a champion.