Band director missing time due to medical complications

Kovalic+takes+a+picture+of+himself+giving+a+thumbs-up+to+the+band%2C+in+order+to+recognize+that+his+surgery+went+well.+
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Band director missing time due to medical complications

Kovalic takes a picture of himself giving a thumbs-up to the band, in order to recognize that his surgery went well.

Kovalic takes a picture of himself giving a thumbs-up to the band, in order to recognize that his surgery went well.

Kovalic takes a picture of himself giving a thumbs-up to the band, in order to recognize that his surgery went well.

Kovalic takes a picture of himself giving a thumbs-up to the band, in order to recognize that his surgery went well.

Cole Skuse, Business Manager/Copy Editor

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Many who know Freedom band director Keith Kovalic — referred to as “KK” by others — know that he doesn’t have the best medical history. In the past, one of the main sources of his problems has been with his eyesight. It has caused him to miss days of school in the past and plagued him with some problems reading music.  Over the summer, Kovalic underwent heart surgery due to some blocked arteries in his heart.

Kovalic had planned to be there for the two weeks of band camp at the high school in preparation for the upcoming marching band season. This year, those dates were July 30 through Aug. 2 and Aug. 6 through Aug. 9.

Originally, stents — devices that would help open his arteries within the heart — were going in Kovalic’s arteries. This was happening the Friday of the first week of band camp, Aug. 3 at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.

When Kovalic went in to have the stents put in, the blockages within Kovalic’s arteries were worse than the doctors had thought. Allegheny General admitted Kovalic on that Friday.  As such, Kovalic would not be able to make band camp the following week.

Kovalic planned to have a surgery on the following Tuesday, Aug. 7, to remove four arteries within his heart that were causing blockages. Over a span of six hours, only two of Kovalic’s arteries required replacement using a vein from his leg. Kovalic was then put in the intensive care unit.

Before the surgery, Kovalic’s daughter, Jenna Ellis, flew to Pittsburgh to visit him and help him recover post-surgery. Ellis wrote a message to the band.

“I’m sure he would want you to know that he would much rather be there with you all instead of watching terrible TV in Allegheny General,” Ellis wrote. “He worked so hard on this show that I know it’s hurting him not to be there for band camp or the first game or even Kennywood. I’m pretty sure this is the first time he’s missed any of this while at Freedom!”

While Kovalic spent time in the hospital, former Western Beaver band director Ron Steffanina has assisted the band. Steffanina also helped the band last year as an assistant band director, the same position he held at the start of this year’s marching band season.

As the Geneva Band Festival, one of the most important events for the band, is on Sept. 29, Kovalic hopes to be back to the band beforehand.

“His recovery period is estimated to be 4-6 weeks, once again dependent upon him following the rules and resting and doing physical therapy. But he’s stubborn and wants to be back ASAP so maybe he’ll listen,” Ellis concluded in her letter.

On Sept. 11, Kovalic made a surprise visit to the nad during class. As people walked in, they saw that Kovalic was sitting in his normal seat up front. Very few people knew that he was planning on visiting that day. Still, due to his recovery, he couldn’t stay the entire time. He plans to be back soon, but even when he returns, he will only be able to spend four hours a day working at the school.

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