Prairie basketball coach with the comeback of his life


Kyle Brooks uses golf as part of his rehabilitation after suffering from a medical emergency last winter

He was out of it for a month of his life, semi-conscious in a hospital bed.

He was on a ventilator to breathe.

He had vision issues.

He could not move, paralyzed by a rare syndrome.

Kyle Brooks, the longtime boys basketball coach for the Prairie Falcons, was in the fight for his life last winter. 

Kyle Brooks, Prairie’s boys basketball coach, uses his love for golf to help him rehabilitate after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome last winter. Photo by Paul Valencia
Kyle Brooks, Prairie’s boys basketball coach, uses his love for golf to help him rehabilitate after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome last winter. Photo by Paul Valencia

Basketball season went on without him. So did his teaching job at Prairie High School. At the time, no one knew when, or if, Kyle Brooks would be back to his life’s work. In early January, he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome. His immune system was attacking his own nervous system.

Today, he is teaching again.

And on Monday, the Battle Ground School District will allow sports teams to have organized workouts on campus. 

It will be a celebration for Brooks, the first day in the gym with his team since the end of December, 2019.

“I relied on my faith,” Brooks said Thursday afternoon during a round of golf at Club Green Meadows in Vancouver

Brooks is taking advantage of his love for golf as part of his rehabilitation. He could not move last winter. Now, he’s playing as much golf as he can.

“The one thing I never did, I told myself I was not going to get mad at God. I asked why. But I kept believing I was going to get better,” he said.

Prairie boys basketball coach Kyle Brooks, shown here in February 2019, missed most of last season after being hospitalized with Guillain-Barre syndrome. He expects to be back in the gym Monday when Prairie can start having organized workouts on campus. Photo by Mike Schultz
Prairie boys basketball coach Kyle Brooks, shown here in February 2019, missed most of last season after being hospitalized with Guillain-Barre syndrome. He expects to be back in the gym Monday when Prairie can start having organized workouts on campus. Photo by Mike Schultz

Brooks said he used several factors to motivate him throughout the ordeal. Strength of the Lord was No. 1. He also knew a granddaughter was on the way. He had to get better to welcome her into the world.

Plus there was his wife Jane. The Brooks raised four children, and she has been the rock of the family through all the years, Kyle said.

“It took me a while to realize what she was going through,” he said, noting that while he was on that ventilator for a month, she was the one dealing with all the what-ifs and communication with the doctors. She also was the one keeping family and friends up to date with Kyle’s condition. 

“Once I realized that, it made me that much more determined because I wanted to get better to help her,” he said.

Then there was another love.

In the spring, he would look out the window and know that it was about to be prime condition for golf. Longtime friend Greg Phillips gave Brooks a dozen Titleist Pro V1 golf balls and a bag of tees.

Brooks got the hint. 

“I’m going to walk and play golf again,” Brooks promised himself.

He was in three hospitals. Then a nursing home. He could not get in the rehabilitation center he wanted due to COVID restrictions. So he went to work on rehab at his home. He also was diagnosed with Miller-Fisher syndrome, a variant of Guillain-Barre that affected his speech. Brooks had to go through physical therapy and speech therapy.

Words with the letter P were difficult for him. He thought that was funny. He said he had trouble saying “Prairie.” Imagine that? Kyle Brooks not being able to say Prairie.

On Monday, he’ll be back with his Prairie Falcons.

But before basketball, he had to hit the links.

“My first time teeing off, I wobbled out to the tee. My first ball went into the Japanese Maple,” Brooks said, referring to a tree about 10 feet away and to the right of the tee box.

He took a mulligan.

“The second one trickled down just past the ladies tee,” Brooks said.

His friend Bill Sixour said that it was the best drive he had ever seen in his life.

“That felt pretty good,” Brooks said of hearing that statement. “It really didn’t matter where I hit it. It mattered that I was back out here, back on my feet, able to play golf in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.”

His ordeal began when he and the Falcons were in Yakima for a holiday event at the Sun Dome last December. Brooks just thought he was sick, a typical illness during the winter. But it got worse.

When he got home, he was first told he had a bad cold. Then pneumonia. The medicine was not helping.

“I knew something wasn’t right in my eye, and then my legs were starting to get wobbly,” he recalled.

He checked into a hospital on Jan. 3. That’s pretty much the last thing he recalls until February.

“I found out I was on a ventilator for a month,” he said.

“At my worst, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breathe,” Brooks said.

Initially, he did not even want to research the syndrome. He said he was angry and stubborn. 

Now, he is appreciative of all that he has. He learned that Guillain-Barre syndrome affects about 20 people out of a million. But many people his age are in the hospital for up to a year.

“Here I am, I’m 10 months into it, and I’m playing golf,” he said.

“I’m really good right now. Speech is getting better. I have a lot of nerve pain. Doctor said that could be up to a year but maybe even a couple of years,” Brooks said.

He is teaching and about to coach again. He also said he wanted to come back in order to thank everyone who supported him and his family. 

Brooks ran out of sick days last school year. The district has a policy that allows others to donate days. He needed 58 days. He had them within two days.

“The generosity of the people in the school district was amazing,” Brooks said. 

“As I started to get a little bit better, a little bit better, my mindset was to get back to teaching and coaching,” he added, giving a salute to assistant coach Jimmy Tuominen for taking over the program. “Jimmy did such a great job picking up the slack.”

Jason Castro, the athletic director at Prairie, put together a video of support from the school and the community. It touched the Brooks family.

“I remember lying in the hospital bed, tears falling down my cheeks when I saw what he did for me that night,” Brooks said. 

“To back me up as an athletic director, and the Prairie community, the way they responded, it was very humbling. … I wanted to thank them and show people I’m coming back, I’m getting well, I got better, and here I am.”

And just where is Kyle Brooks?

Prairie boys basketball players are set to begin workouts on Monday. 

Their coach will be there with them.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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