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Days after brain surgery, Bellport football coach returns for title game

Bellport High School assistant coach Kyle Moodt was

Bellport High School assistant coach Kyle Moodt was back with his team Saturday night after undergoing brain surgery on Tuesday. Credit: George A. Faella

As the entire Bellport High School varsity football season built up to Saturday night's Suffolk County Division II championship game, assistant coach Kyle Moodt worried he might miss it.

He was scheduled for surgery this past Tuesday, to resolve a potentially fatal blood-flow problem in his brain, and he told the surgeon he wanted to be at the game.

"I told him, ‘I have a big football game coming up, and I know it sounds juvenile, but I’ve been there for these kids a long time, and I don’t want to be a distraction,’ " said Moodt, 38.

Moodt got his wish. He was with his team for practice on Friday, and on Saturday night he was at Stony Brook University when the Bellport Clippers beat the Lindenhurst Bulldogs 13 to 0.

And the severe headaches he endured for months before the operation were gone.

"I feel 100 times better," he said Friday night.

The headaches started in July.

"It was debilitating," he said. "It was hard to do anything. Just constant pain. Honestly, I had bottles of Tylenol everywhere I went, whether at home, in my truck, in the coach’s office. I needed Tylenol all the time just to take some of the edge off."

He continued coaching at Bellport High and teaching fifth-grade general education at Frank P. Long Intermediate School in Bellport.

But at times the head pain was so severe that during football practice, "I was lying down on the grass just waiting for it to pass," he said.

At home in Center Moriches, he tried to keep up with his three children, Emma, 3, Brody, 5 and Kayla, 7, but sometimes he was in so much pain that his wife, Michelle, had to "hold down the fort."

Michelle Moodt said even as the seriousness of his condition became clear, "we kind of kept the kids sheltered. We just kept it as ‘Daddy has a brain boo-boo.’ "

Kyle Moodt resisted going to a doctor, but Jennifer Fabian, a physician assistant, family friend and wife of Bellport High coach Jamie Fabian, pushed him to get checked out.

Tests pointed to bleeding in the brain.

Dr. Michael Guido, a neurologist at Stony Brook Medicine, ordered more brain imaging, and afterward, he and Dr. David Fiorella, a Stony Brook neurointerventional radiologist, agreed the problem appeared to be a dural arteriovenous fistula. That is an abnormal connection between arteries and a vein in the brain that causes increased blood flow through, and increased pressure on, multiple veins, Fiorella said.

The veins are so delicate that the pressure could eventually burst them, leading to a potentially fatal brain hemorrhage, he said.

An angiogram, which involved inserting a catheter through Moodt’s wrist and injecting a special dye to see the blood vessels in more detail, confirmed the initial diagnosis. It was clear that Moodt needed to undergo surgery soon, because "this thing was getting ready to rupture," Fiorella said.

Advanced technology allowed Fiorella to perform the surgery in such a minimally invasive way that the entire procedure on Tuesday took only about 45 minutes, he said.

During the procedure, Fiorella injected a glue-like substance into the vein in the brain. That substance then solidified, forming a type of cast that "eliminates that abnormal connection," he said. "Now the veins are no longer pressurized."

Moodt said he "went in the surgery with a headache and came out without one. My head felt clearer than it had in months."

Looking back, Moodt wished he would have sought treatment earlier. Michelle Moodt said one reason he didn't was he didn’t want to let down others.

"His thing was, ‘Oh, I’ve got my family, and the kids are doing this, and this sport, and then football, and I’ve got to be there for the players,’ " she said.

Kyle Moodt has been offensive and defensive line coach at Bellport High since 2007, and he was there the last time Bellport won the county championship, in 2010. He also was there when the team made it to the title game last year but came up short. He didn’t want to let his health issues prevent him from being with his players Saturday, when they would compete in the most important game of the year.

"This is a really great group of kids on and off the field," he said. "And this is really the game you think about when you first start playing football, to get in this position, to get to this point."

Bellport will face Garden City Nov. 27 in the Long Island Class II championship game.

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