Pictured Above: Chris Foley
Game Changer: The Life-Saving Story of a Beloved Texas Football Coach
by Gina Mayfield
When most people think of Texas high school football, the heat of those Friday Night Lights first comes to mind. But, in reality, one of the biggest opponents coaches and players face is the intense heat of the sun, with temperatures rising well above 100 into the school year.
August 16, 2019, was no different. The morning started off as usual at Plano East Senior High, with an early morning football practice beginning on the outdoor turf. As the temperature climbed, the coaching staff corralled its 150 players and starting moving toward the indoor facility to continue training.
“I always stay back to grab all the water, I’m the last one off the field,” says Chris Foley, the team’s athletic trainer. That morning, he noticed two coaches trailing behind the team. Suddenly one of them, Assistant Head Coach Tom Rapp, collapsed to the ground.
As the second coach came upon him, he noticed Coach Rapp was unconscious and started performing CPR as he called out for Chris, who has a master’s degree in athletic training. “We’re there for all medical reasons,” Chris says of the role of an athletic trainer. “If people get hurt, or someone goes down, that’s where I would step in. The coaches are all trained in CPR, but if something happens, they would go get me.” And this incident was no different.
Chris wasted no time. “I sprinted over there and took over CPR, sent another coach to go get the AED and we had someone calling 911. We got the AED over there, and I stuck the AED on Coach Rapp and we alternated shocking him and chest compressions for about 12 – 15 minutes. The AED shocked him four times. The last time was right as the paramedics were getting there.”
As they pulled up in the ambulance, Chris started another round of compressions and the paramedics made their way to the scene. “Coach Rapp regained a pulse, but didn’t regain consciousness until he was in the back of the ambulance.” The head coach rode to the hospital him, where they were later met by most of the coaching staff and a district administrator. By that point Coach Rapp was up and talking, but didn’t remember anything that had happened.
Turns out he had gone into cardiac arrest. “He had an electrolyte imbalance in his heart. They said it was a combination of low potassium level and just it being so hot.” Chris learned that Coach Rapp had a history of heart issues and was on medication. “It was a perfect storm for him.”
Nine days later Coach Rapp emerged from the hospital with a cardioverter defibrillator implanted in his chest. Eventually he made his way back to the gridiron, at first only watching from the sidelines from the comfort of a golf cart the school borrowed for him. “It was tough for him,” Chris says of the early recovery process.
These days, those limitations have been lifted. “Now that he’s back, he’s back full go, no restrictions. The only thing he needs now is a special Gatorade drink every day at practice because of his electrolyte imbalance,” Chris says with a smile.
Coach Rapp has thanked Chris and the coach, Brad Bailey, who initially performed CPR. But they always have the same response. “We keep telling him that he would have done the same for us. There’s just no thanks needed. That’s what we’re there for.” They’re grateful to have their friend on the field with them.
“To know Tom Rapp is to love Tom Rapp. It’s great having him back because he’s that coach that everyone loves, so it was strange him not being there,” Chris says. “You couldn’t have asked for a better guy to help.”