BLOOMINGTON – Shannon Griffith and his wife, Kim, received a call on the night of March 17.
It was from Ty Smith, a friend and teammate of their son, Isaac, who was with him in Florida on spring break. The news wasn’t good. Isaac had been in a swimming accident and was at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in a medically induced coma.
It dropped me to my knees, Shannon said of the phone call. It physically dropped me to my knees.
Isaac Griffith and his parents, along with Smith and teammate Nick Stoner, who was also with them in Florida, spoke with the media after practice Saturday at Memorial Stadium, reliving the dramatic incident.
Isaac Griffith, a 19-year-old redshirt freshman receiver, said he feels great and is jogging and doing some light weightlifting. He was in a coma until March 19, fighting pneumonia and dealing with salt water in his lungs.
Isaac Griffith and Stoner, along with friend Mitch McCune, were vacationing in Orlando but went to visit Smith in Sarasota for the day. They went to the beach around 5:30 p.m. and threw a football around before deciding to go into the ocean. The water was calm when they entered, but the waves began picking up and a riptide began pushing them further out. Stoner and Smith went back to shore, but immediately turned around and realized that they didn’t know where their other two friends were.
Griffith had been forced underwater by the riptide and was unconscious, and McCune was holding him above the water. Stoner and Smith ran back into the water and helped McCune pull Griffith to shore.
Smith is taking an aquatics management class at IU and said he broke a few of the rules that he was taught.
What you’re not supposed to do is send yourself out into the situation that they’re in, but at that time you’re not obviously thinking about that, Smith said. Isaac and I have spent every day together for a whole year – he’s my best friend. Once I figured out that he was kind of in danger, the last thing on my mind was myself.
McCune did chest compressions on Griffith, and Smith performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while Stoner ran to get an ambulance. Stoner, who is also a standout track runner at Indiana, rushed back to the condo and asked Smith’s girlfriend to call 911.
Griffith’s parents rushed from Fort Wayne to Sarasota after receiving the phone call. The doctors told them that he would be in a coma for a few days in order to let his lungs heal from the saltwater.
These guys (Ty, Nick and Mitch) are heroes in our eyes, Shannon Griffith said. They may not look at themselves that way, but on that particular day it’s what was done right as it pertained to Isaac. These three young men are directly responsible for doing a lot of things under very difficult circumstances.
Isaac Griffith was visited by family, teammates, and coaches, including head coach Kevin Wilson, while he was in a coma but doesn’t remember any of it.
After Griffith was conscious, Wilson flew back to Florida to spend some time talking with him.
I never expected all the support that I got from everyone. It wasn’t just from my friends, it was from people I didn’t even know, Isaac Griffith said.
Now that he’s feeling better, all Griffith wants is to get back out on to the field.
I’m ready to get back whenever I can. I’m not going to push it. I’m letting the doctors and the trainers, our strength staff, and our coaches make that determination on when I can get back and when I’m ready to go full speed, he said.
What I’ve been told is, if I’m good enough they’ll monitor me in the summer and what I can do there, and basically be healthy, back to full health at fall camp.
Trying to hold back tears, the former Homestead standout expressed his newfound appreciation for life.
I don’t ever take anything for granted, he said. I go every day and I’m by my team and I wake up every day and thank God for waking me up.