Vernon Hills coach Bellecomo out with heart condition
Vernon Hills football coach Bill Bellecomo is in must-win mode.
Must-live mode, actually.
"These (doctors) are great over here," Bellecomo said Tuesday from his bed at Highland Park Hospital. "I told them, 'This is a game you can't lose. There's no option. I don't want to put any pressure on you, but there's no room for error.' "
Bellecomo laughed, but he knows his medical situation is serious. The longtime Vernon Hills coach said he is expected to have surgery on Thursday or Friday to replace a heart valve. Bellecomo, who is also a dean of students at the high school, has been given a leave of absence effective immediately and will be away from work to recover until about mid-December.
In his absence, assistant coach Jason Czarnecki will assume the position of head coach for the football team for the remainder of the season. The district is working to cover Bellecomo's dean of student responsibilities with a long-term substitute.
He has been feeling sluggish for a while.
"It was the typical flu-like symptoms, but the fever stuck with me," said Bellecomo, who's 48. "It would come and go. I got better, and then I would feel sick again. My physician thought I had walking pneumonia."
Bellecomo missed a couple of practices, but has not missed a game this season. After practice on Saturday, he learned the results of his blood work, which revealed a bacteria in his blood. That sent him to the ER immediately and started him on what he called "really aggressive" antibiotics.
"When they started talking about the heart, that scared me," Bellecomo said.
He knows he has a long road ahead of him but just wants to resume living a normal life.
"(The doctor) said, 'A year from now, you're going to be fine,' " Bellecomo said. "(After surgery) it's going to be cardiac rehab and just getting my strength and stamina back. The good news is I'm 48, so I got that going for me."
"We wish Bill a full and speedy recovery," Community High School District 128 superintendent Prentiss Lea said. "We look forward to his return to the VHHS family when he is fully recovered."
Bellecomo is in his 20th year in District 128 and 19th season coaching in the VHHS football program. This is his sixth season as head coach. Under his direction, the Cougars were state runners-up in Class 5A in 2016.
Vernon Hills (2-2) visits Highland Park on Friday night for its Central Suburban League North Division opener.