Walt Raines experienced his share of comeback victories in 28 seasons as Franklin’s girls basketball coach.
After suffering a stroke on March 4, Raines, who retired from coaching the Grizzly Cubs following the 2015-16 season, is working on another one.
The 58-year-old is confident he’ll be able to return in late July to his job as dean of students and athletics director at Franklin Middle School.
“I feel good. I am back to normal,” said Raines, whose career record of 339-272 places him in the top 40 of Indiana’s all-time winningest girls basketball coaches. “I feel that dealing with kids, dealing with the athletic end of it, I’m confident I can handle all of that.”
The road back has presented challenges.
Raines, who is right-handed, continues to relearn how to print and write cursive. He is able to write, but it trails off. He particularly struggles writing long sentences.
The stroke also impacted Raines’ ability to maintain perfect balance while he walks. Even now, his strides carry the slightest of limps.
In May, Raines had to earn back the right to drive. He takes approximately 20 pills a day to help him address, among other things, high blood pressure and an iron deficiency.
Some of the medications he takes curb Raines’ appetite, which, combined with his one-mile walks each morning, have reduced the coach’s weight from 225 pounds to 200.
He couldn’t begin taking walks until six weeks after suffering the stroke.
The first signs
Raines was running the Indy Girls Hoop League tournament at Franklin Community High School when his son, Randy, informed him that his face was drooping slightly — perhaps, they thought, a recurrence of the Bell’s Palsy (a form of facial paralysis) that he had been diagnosed with a year earlier.
One side of Raines’ face remained numb for three weeks, though it only caused him to miss one day of work during the 2015-16 school year.
This, however, was different.
“That morning I had gotten up and was getting things ready. I went into the high school and my son looked at me and said, ‘You need to go home. Something’s wrong,’ ” Raines said. “I said ‘Oh, I’ll be fine’, and I went to write a check, and I couldn’t write.
“I couldn’t comprehend at that time that I had had a stroke. He finished up the tournament and I went home. I was able to drive, but things were different.”
After the stroke, Raines spent six days in Major Hospital in Shelbyville. He then went to Johnson Memorial Hospital in Franklin for seven days of rehabilitation centered on his balance.
He continues twice-weekly occupational therapy sessions at Johnson Memorial.
Appreciating life more
Raines and his wife, Pam, have four grown children and nine grandchildren ranging in age from 2 to 13. Having been entrenched in Johnson County for so long — Raines graduated from Franklin College in 1980 — his support system at home and locally is vast.
Raines chooses to have a deeper appreciation for those closest to him and every moment he’s able to spend with them.
“I feel it’s given me a new perspective on life. With this happening to me, it’s given me a vigor for life,” Raines said. “I look at my grandkids differently and believe that I have a purpose.
“I try to walk, take care of myself. Blood pressure-wise, I’m much more relaxed. Much more able to handle things.”
Raines, who led the Grizzly Cub girls to the Class 3A state championship game in 1998, has managed to significantly lower his blood pressure.
In March 2016, the time he was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, his reading was 250 over 120.
It’s now 120 over 80.
The traditionalist in Raines makes him want to serve as the middle school’s dean of students until he’s 65 (he turns 59 in September). This means doling out discipline at least though the 2023-24 school year.
With exercise and an improved diet, Raines likes his chances.
Family: Wife Pam; sons Brian, 34, and Randy, 29; daughters Amy, 33, and Anesa, 32; nine grandchildren
High school: Muncie Burris (1976)
College: Franklin College (1980)
Major: History Education