Fenwick baseball coach Dave Hogan has an interesting question for his ballplayer, Steve Puiszis.

“Well, I want to ask him, I know that if you leave a tooth under your pillow, the tooth fairy brings some money. But I wonder what Steve would get for a rib?”

That’s right, Steve Puiszis, an Oak Parker who will be a senior at Fenwick in the fall, has a human rib sitting in a bag on his desk in his room. Don’t worry-it’s his. But the story of how the rib got there is remarkable, so remarkable that it may have you pondering if this kid is possibly a superhero.

Not long ago, Puiszis was, like any other high school ballplayer, working out, running fast, and hitting the ball hard. He was 170 pounds of pure adrenaline. He was smashing the ball, and this backup catcher’s throws to second were zipped. Hogan knew he had to find a spot for this kid somewhere in the lineup.

Then Puiszis suddenly felt weak. The workouts became too strenuous, his timing at the plate was way off, and throws down to second skipped a few times. During one workout his arm went numb and turned purple. Puiszis now credits Fenwick athletic trainer Tony McCormick for saving his life.

“Tony said I could have a possible blood clot somewhere and that’s what it ultimately turned out to be,” says Puiszis. “If I had done nothing, I may not be talking to you right now.”

The blood clot was in his upper chest, an annoying little souvenir left over from a hockey injury the year prior. Puiszis took a check in the back while playing in a game for Fenwick’s junior varsity hockey team. It turns out he was hurt bad but didn’t feel it. He refers to it now as “just a dull pain.” But he had broken his wrist and his collarbone, which likely led to the severe blood clot.

“I guess I don’t feel that much pain; it’s kind of weird,” says Puiszis nonchalantly.

After an ardent attempt to clear the clot with medications and after several angioplasties, in May, Puiszis traveled down to St. Louis and underwent nine hours of surgery. While enroute, he got a call from Colorado Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook, who had the same surgery back in 2004.

“He gave me a little pep talk,” remembers Puiszis, “which was nice because I was a little scared.”

To get to the clot, Dr. Robert Thompson, a vascular surgeon, had to remove one rib, which brings us back to why Puiszis has one of his ribs sitting in a bag on his desk in his room.

The 17-year-old is still on the road to recovery, even playing in a few ballgames this summer. But he’s still got a long way to go. “I’m gassed all the time, but some of it has to do with the meds I’ve been on,” says Puiszis, who is currently working with trainers to gain back his strength, speed and timing.

So I guess you could say he put a rib under his pillow, and got back his life.

Contact: bspencer@wjinc.com

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...