STILLWATER — Bill Young prepared for his fourth season at Oklahoma State and his 44th year of coaching.
For sure feeling no hint of the aneurysm the size of a thumbnail bubbled right between his eyes.
“The doctor said I was a walking time bomb,” Young said.
A nearly undetected time bomb.
So the Cowboys defensive coordinator sends a message to anyone delaying a visit to the doctor, or for anyone questioning a doctor's advice.
For the first time, Young is addressing the medical issue that caused him to miss OSU's games against Savannah State and Arizona, speaking out in hopes of helping others.
“If your doctor recommends something, he's a lot smarter than you are,” said Young, who missed two games earlier this season following a medical procedure, but is back coaching, this week working on a game plan for Kansas.
“And I almost didn't listen. And I'm sure I'd have lived to regret it.”
Or not lived.
When cerebral aneurysms rupture, it typically causes stroke, disability and even death, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Young, 66, initially tried to ignore family history and his own health history, before finally giving in to the wishes of his doctor and wife. Young went in for a routine MRI designed to rule out any existence of the kind of aneurysms that killed his father and once struck Young 30 years earlier.
Except the MRI revealed obvious danger, detecting a rather large bubble between Young's eyes.
He'd suffered no symptoms, which is common with cerebral aneurysms.
“It's a silent killer if there ever was one,” Young said.
This, Young knew all too well. As a boy growing up in Clovis, N.M., his father, William, was stricken with an aneurysm at the age of 31.
“Boom, just like that he was dead,” Young said.
Speaking to an uncle recently, Young discovered his father's aneurysm was in the exact same location as his father's.
“I'm just real lucky,” Young said.
While on the coaching staff at Tulsa in 1982, Young was in the weight room working out when he found himself being awakened on the floor.
He'd suffered a ruptured aneurysm that day and only intense headache and continual vomiting convinced him to go to the doctor — for dehydration. Further tests revealed the aneurysm, but surgery was avoided when it was discovered that the artery had sealed itself off.
Given a clean bill of health at the time, Young said he never considered the potential for another problem until his routine checkup, the debate that followed, then the MRI. It was the history of aneurysms that prompted his doctor to suggest taking a look.
“I said, ‘No, I'm not sure I really need it,'” Young said. “My wife said I needed it and I said I didn't think I did.
“It's like $500 to get an MRI. I thought, ‘Why would I spend $500 to get an MRI? That (previous aneurysm) was 30 years ago.'
“It's the smart thing to do. Looking back on it, it was being idiotic to have even considered not doing it.”
As the current advertising campaign sponsored by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association suggests: “Stroke's No Joke.”
One commercial, featuring comedian George Wilborn, speaks to how stubborn people can be — especially men — when it comes to going to the doctor.
“I'm guilty of it,” said OSU coach Mike Gundy, who is pleased to have his friend and coach back on the sideline. “I got a thorough checkup maybe four years ago. I haven't done it since. I need to get checked.
“But it is a good message for men, because we're hardheaded. Women do a better job of going to get checked. Men don't. We're not very smart.”
Young's subsequent checkup went well.
“The doctor thinks I'm 100 percent now,” he said.
He goes back again in six months. And he'll continue to get checked whenever recommended.
“I'm just so grateful and thankful that I had such great care,” he said. “It's really comforting to know there are people out there to give you great care when you need it.
“I've been big-time lucky, twice now. The first time I was really lucky because it burst.
“So take care of yourself, you only get one body.”