As a standout athlete and coach, Shane Dudoit has faced do-or-die situations on the field.
Reality, however, intervened with an actual life-or-death scenario last month.
The 41-year-old Dudoit, an assistant baseball coach at Baldwin High School and a Maui County firefighter, has a 3-inch surgical scar on his neck to prove it.
Shane Dudoit (left), shown with fellow Baldwin High School assistant baseball coach Eddie Espiritu during a game earlier this month, spent five days in March in a medically induced coma while fighting a severe throat infection that was complicated by a flesh-eating bacteria.
The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo
Dudoit said he was "within a minute or so of me living or me passing" from a severe infection in his throat complicated by a flesh-eating bacteria that led to him being placed in a medically induced coma for five days last month.
On March 12, he went to the Maui Memorial Medical Center emergency room with "some difficulty breathing," Dudoit said before Baldwin's practice Tuesday.
A procedure was performed to clean out what doctors thought was an abscess, but three days later Dudoit was having trouble breathing again. He went to the Kahului fire station to get some oxygen, but was back in the emergency room again that afternoon.
"Dr. (Alan) Song, who is an angel, came to look at it and said, 'OK, we need to get you into surgery.' Basically he told my wife, 'It will be a 45-minute surgery, we have to check out the abscess,' see if they could clean some stuff out," Dudoit said.
"Two and a half hours later I came out of surgery. They had to intubate me, put a tube in because of the swelling in my throat. Basically they said they were within a minute or so of me living or me passing. Because of the swelling they were able to get the tube in, finally, after multiple times trying. They put me in medical coma, intubated, and had the machine breathe for me."
Dudoit underwent a stomach-reduction procedure in 2009 that helped him lose more than 170 pounds, down to his current weight of 240. He knows now, though, that he was not getting the nutrients his body needed, partly because of his being filled up quickly, sometimes because he drank alcohol.
"My immune system had shut down because of my stomach surgery and my lack of nutrition and my habits," he said. "It hurt me and it hurt my immune system. With the antibiotics, it did not work. Because my immune system was shutting down, it wasn't working to fight the disease and the virus that I had. I enjoy socially having fun, I enjoy friends, conversations. I learn a lot, but I have decided now I can have fun without drinking. And I'm eating now. Before I didn't have to eat. Because of the (stomach surgery), I wouldn't have to eat."
On March 17, the third day of his coma, "they decided to cut open my neck and perform a (tracheotomy) just in case the swelling would not go away and took over the (breathing) tube."
Then came perhaps the biggest piece of good fortune for Dudoit during the entire ordeal - Song had an appointment on Oahu, but a flight delay caused him to forego the trip.
"He came back to the hospital, got me into surgery right away and he cut open the neck and he found a flesh-eating bacteria in there," Dudoit said. "If the flesh-eating had stayed in my throat, it would have been fatal."
The bacteria eventually left his throat and went into his neck and in front of his voice box.
"There's so much shoulda, couldas," Dudoit said. "I can tell you without my faith in God, I probably would not be here. There's so many things that went the right way every step of the way. It was either my immune system was going to start to work and I was going to be fine or it wasn't and I was going to die."
He tried to communicate with his wife, Jovi, and oldest son, Haloa, 15, who stayed by his side nearly 24 hours a day, but was under too much medication to make sense.
"The reason for them not telling me what happened, what went on, was because I needed to keep my blood pressure down, I needed to relax," Dudoit said.
Finally, intravenous nutrients helped his immune system recover enough for the antibiotics to work. Thirteen days in the ICU at MMMC saved his life, Dudoit said.
"Maui Memorial is an amazing place," he said. "We have got great doctors, great staff, and people on Maui should be thankful we have such great facilities."
Song, Dr. Melvin Burton, Dr. Michael Shea, Dr. Scott Hoskinson and Dr. David Crow were the physicians Dudoit went out of his way to thank. Response from his birth island of Molokai, the Maui baseball community and the fire department, where Dudoit returns to work on Monday, came pouring in as well.
Recounting the experience brought tears to Haloa, a freshman member of the Baldwin baseball team.
"It was pretty scary," he said. "It was hard to see him like that. I was super worried, I never wanted to leave his side. I slept over a couple nights until the nurses kicked me out. When he woke up I felt better because I could actually talk to him."
Haloa took on the task of watching out for his younger brothers, Haku, 10, and Halii, 7. Their sister, 19-year-old Kailee, is a student at Nevada-Las Vegas.
"I had to tell them that dad was OK because they couldn't see him," Haloa said. "It was pretty hard because they wanted to see him, but they couldn't."
Before graduating from Mo-lokai High School in 1989, Dudoit was a volleyball and baseball player. As a head coach, he led St. Anthony to its first Maui Interscholastic League pennant in 29 years in 2007, and then to the first three Division II state semifinals, starting with an appearance in the 2008 title game, where the Trojans lost 1-0 to Kauai.
"You would be so caught up into the winning and losing," Dudoit said. "Now I realize baseball's just a game. Life is so much more important than baseball. Baseball is a big part of our lives, baseball has been good to us.
"It is a great community. Our coaching staff here, the parents here at Baldwin, everybody prayed."
Dudoit returned to his duties as third-base coach on April 13 at Maehara Stadium - the Bears beat Maui High to clinch a berth in the Division I state tournament, set for May 8-11 at Maehara.
The Bears, bidding for a fifth straight league pennant, will play Kamehameha Maui today in the semifinals of the MIL tournament.
The MMMC waiting room was full of well-wishers each day Dudoit was in the facility.
"Guys were bringing food to the hospital every day," Dudoit said. "It was like a little luau in the waiting area."
Dudoit is also a right-hand man to the Pono organization, which sponsors softball and baseball teams for Central Maui youth. The foundation is named after Baldwin head coach Jon Viela's son, who died in 2004 at the age of 3. Jon Viela, a former Baldwin and University of Hawaii standout, faced Dudoit in high school baseball.
"I have been through tra-gedies in our lives," Viela said. "Anytime somebody gets sick, ill, or is even flirting with death, it is very hard to absorb. It is hard to take in. When I visited him in the hospital and saw the condition he was in - and everybody else who saw him - I think we just crumbled, your heart just broke. Just knowing what kind of person he is and the state that he was in, it was hard to see him that way.
"He is back to 100 percent, the Shane that we know. He has got his loud voice back and his presence known."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com