But seemingly from thin air, tragedy would strike, and strike hard. "Initially, they believed that I was suffering from Miller-Fisher syndrome. But by the next day they had it correctly diagnosed as Guillain-Barré (GBS) syndrome, a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. I had never even heard of Guillain-Barré syndrome."
For coach Sutton, the result of the syndrome was horrific. His condition worsened to the point that, with the exception of blinking his eyes, he last lost all motor skills and communication skills, "I could not move my legs or my arms, my head or my hands. I could not talk," Sutton said, "I could not breathe on my own and had to be put on a respirator. In some ways it felt like I was being buried alive. And it was that way for what seemed like a long, long time."
The recovery and rehabilitation has been long and difficult, and that is not uncommon. GBS can be a devastating disorder because of its sudden and unexpected onset and, in many cases slow, painful recovery periods.
"I am fifteen months into it, and it has been a long, tough road," Sutton said. "I can move my limbs though I still do not have full use of my hands and still can't walk well without assistance."
Sutton is beginning to walk with crutches and with other forms of assistance. The process is not quick, but the coach is optimistic. And it is obvious that the coach is looking forward not backward. This summer Sutton was back out on the recruiting trail, making appearances at several AAU tournaments, watching and evaluating players.
"Seeing coach Sutton in practice was quite an inspiration for all of us," said assistant coach Steve Payne, "just knowing everything he had gone through, and to see him at practice made everyone play harder."
The good news is, this season coach Sutton plans to be back on the bench coaching the team. "Hey, I have already started this summer. I know I will be somewhat limited physically but I will be back running the practices and coaching the games. I have a great team of guys assisting me and we are managing pretty well."
"Having coach Sutton back does carry some dangers with it," Payne muses, "Coach gets so involved that he will sometimes wheel himself out onto the floor in his wheel chair. On more than one occasion he has taken out a player or two in transition. And when coach runs into a player running in full stride with his wheel chair the term ‘hard foul' takes on a whole new meaning."