By Scott Reister
ELDORA, Iowa (KCCI) — On Jan. 27, 2020, South Hardin volleyball coach John Teske stopped at his dad’s barn to drop some hay down from the loft. It was a routine chore he had done thousands of times.
“I left the truck running,” he said. “It was gonna take two minutes.”
This time, it changed his life forever.
He tossed some hay down to the cattle, then turned to climb back down. His head slammed into a beam. His neck, already weak from colon cancer he had been battling, snapped back.
“I felt like I was falling and couldn’t breathe,” Teske said. “I felt like I was going to die hitting the ground.”
He lay there, paralyzed and alone.
“I was praying and praising the whole time, to have someone find me, to live through this,” Teske said.
After an hour and a half, his 14-year-old son, Jake, finally came to check on him.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Jake said. “I was really worried for him. I was in complete shock.”
At the hospital, doctors said his spinal cord was 85% compromised, but not severed. There was hope.
“Emotionally, I told my mom god restored Job he is gonna restore me too,” Teske said. “When I left the facility in the ambulance, I don’t know, I just felt like he was going to put me on a place to healing.”
Teske fought hard, and his body began to regain feeling. He credits his friends and family, especially his wife Suzy, who is a physical therapist.
Eventually, he was able to walk again. A little over a month after the accident, he got the biggest gift of all – his team. They drove to Cedar Rapids to visit the coach in the hospital.
“It is a family,” he said. “You go through a lot. You face not being able to do the things you used to be able to do. They drove an hour and a half each way, invested three hours of time, and however long they stayed with me, just to stay and encourage me. They aren’t going to give up on me I’m not gonna give up on them.”
The team gave him a box full of encouraging cards.
“Right when we got there and gave him the box we were all balling our eyes out,” said junior Ellie Anderson. “It was a really cool moment.”
Last season, Teske miraculously returned to his team at South Hardin and resumed his coaching duties with his wife Suzy. They made it to the state tournament for the first time in 20 years.
This season, they are chasing a state championship. They started the year by winning 33 matches in a row. The strong bond they forged over the past year plays a big part on the court. Teske also has two daughters on the team, Abby and Jaidyn.
“It was very meaningful for him when they visited him in the hospital,” Suzy said. “Friendships go deep. Being through hard times brings the team together.”
They are one win away from another state tournament, and a shot at the title that eluded them last season.
“He never gives up,” Anderson said. “That inspires us all.”
“We just have that kind of fight at South Hardin volleyball,” Teske said. “We fight for every point. And now they see me fight for every new movement or new thing I can do.
The team faces ACGC Wednesday at North Polk High School. The winner advances to the State Tournament in Cedar Rapids.
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