Football coach loses legs, a hand and fingers – but not his positivity

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL/CNN) – A high school football coach lost his legs, a hand and several fingers when he went in for heart surgery back in May.

But he’s not letting his misfortunes dull his positive spirit.

Life is a lot different these days for 49-year-old Casey Cagle, an assistant football coach for Bradshaw Christian High School.

"I'm vulnerable for the first time in my life,” Cagle said. “I walked into that hospital at 6-foot-5-and-a-half, you know, 261 pounds. I came out at 4-foot-6 and 191 pounds. And you realize at that point how fast things can change."

That was in May, when Cagle went in for a 4-hour procedure on his heart. But he said complications nearly cost him his life.

"For the boys to deal with losing a coach would be difficult,” said Kurt Takahashi, the athletic director of Bradshaw Christian. “So, we all braced ourselves for it, and then it comes out as a miracle."

Cagle ended up spending close to 100 days in the hospital. During that time, doctors were forced to amputate both of his legs, his left hand and several fingers.

But he never lost his sense of humor or his outlook on life.

“You realize, one digit can do a lot for you,” he said. “So, every time we score now, the kids put a pinky up. Whoever scored will run over and I get my hug out of it. That’s exciting to me.”

Cagle returned part time to the program just last month. He’s received a lot of support from his family, his football team and the entire Bradshaw Christian community.

"Those are the kinds of things, the support from your family and the people you know in the community, that's really what makes you go forward and want to live," he said.

"He cooks, he does laundry, he cleans his house. I mean, he really enjoys being independent,” said Michael Cagle, Casey's brother. “If anything, we are through the hard part now and things will continue to get better as we go.”

Cagle already has big plans for next year. The hope is he gets prosthetic legs come January, and then he'll be right back at Bradshaw Christian coaching the defensive line full time in the summer.

"You realize, you've got to be the same person you were,” he said. “I can't bring them down, and I can't bring myself down, or else it's going to be a long life. I'd rather go about this the way I used to. It makes me feel like I’m still the person I used to be.”

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