Rhett Bailey’s emotional return to football wasn’t an easy journey. It began with a visit to the Limestone Hospital ER in April 2011 with what Bailey thought was a stomach virus. Initial tests revealed Rhett had bowel intussusceptions and enlarged lymph nodes that doctors worried could be cancer.
After a night spent with tubes inserted into his nose and stomach, Rhett was moved to Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children where specialists immediately recommended a biopsy and surgery to remove a large lymph node from his abdomen.
The next 48 hours would be something Bailey later described as “a really bad nightmare.”
Bailey’s condition quickly deteriorated, as did the weather. The Elkmont freshman was experiencing the most pain he had ever endured as tornadoes ripped through the state outside his Huntsville Hospital room.
It was April 27, 2011, and the hospital was in the same chaotic situation as the rest of North Alabama. The machines needed to complete Bailey’s diagnosis were struck by lightning so Bailey was moved to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
“If I could have picked a night to have died, it would have been that night,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep because I was throwing up so much. It was burning up in the room from the power being out. I was looking outside and it was stormy, ambulances going everywhere. My nurses couldn’t get to me because there were so many other patients.”
Upon arriving in Memphis, doctors and nurses immediately began treating Bailey, but the 15-year-old was getting worse at a rapid rate. The next morning, cancer soon became an afterthought when it was revealed that a blockage was cutting off all Bailey’s blood flow to his intestines and emergency surgery was required.
After intensive surgery, Rhett emerged from the life-threatening situation without his appendix, 15 centimeters of his intestines along with the original blockage. But that was just the beginning.