Author: Lyndal Scranton, Springfield Daily Citizen
The football season has yet to kick off and Art Hains already is 1-0. The voice of Missouri State athletics for more than four decades has a comeback victory for the ages to his credit.
Hains announced last weekend at Missouri State’s “Sneaker Soiree” fundraiser that he plans to return to the microphone to call Bears’ football and basketball home games this season. He also will resume his duties as pre-game and post-game host on the Kansas City Chiefs radio network.
The Chiefs begin their preseason schedule on Sunday with a noon kickoff at New Orleans. Hains will be in a Springfield physical rehabilitation facility, an Ethernet line installed in his room, ready to go.
Some might call Hains’ return a miracle. Hains fell desperately ill beginning last Sept. 17 during Missouri State’s football game at Arkansas. He was losing feeling in his legs and having trouble breathing. Symptoms kept getting worse and two days later, he was hospitalized in critical condition.
Over the next several months, he was moved from a Springfield hospital to the Kansas University Medical Center, then two rehabilitation facilities in Lincoln, Nebraska. The diagnosis was West Nile Virus, from a mosquito bite. He developed the most extreme case of West Nile which caused paralysis and a plethora of devastating side effects.
“There’s 700 people in the world who get this each year,” he said. “I was one of the lucky ones to get it in 2022.”
Some of the medical professionals, frankly, gave up on Hains ever having a semi-normal life again. Or even living. He had a few dances with the Grim Reaper, but took away the old man’s scythe and kicked his ass each time.
How? Determination. Positive thinking. Hains never stopped believing he would prevail. He never gave up on making it back to calling Bears games and returning to the Chiefs’ network.
“Throughout this thing, I’ve been very positive that I’m going to come back from it,” Hains said earlier this week. “I never gave up getting back to Springfield and hopefully getting back to doing some things on the radio. I’ve thought that all along.
“My goal has been to do the Chiefs and do some Bears games this first year. It’s getting close now and we’re planning on doing just that. Positive attitude meant a lot.”
Not everyone shared his optimism.
“The first place in Lincoln, they were kind of negative about my chances,” Hains said. “I mean my chances to live. But I never was. I never entertained that. Now, there were a couple of times that I thought, ‘Oops, this may be it.’ But we got through it.”
He credits “The Ambassador” in Lincoln with being key in his turnaround if not his downright survival.
“They got me to the first place in Lincoln and the staff was really good there, but I think in the end, the physical therapy people kind of gave up on me,” he said. “There was another place (The Ambassador) in Lincoln just down the street that does pretty much the same thing, but it was much better for us. Everybody was very positive.”
I’ve known Hains, a native of Marshall, Missouri, since 1977, when he came to Springfield as a young announcer breaking into the business fresh out of Southern Methodist University. No one I’ve met along the way has more passion or professionalism for what they do.
From his homemade charts and scorebooks to his distinctive on-air calls, Hains plans to attack his return to radio as business as usual — just from a wheelchair. At least for the time being.
Since returning to Springfield for the first time in eight months on May 24th — he and his wife Lisa’s 43rd wedding anniversary — the progress has steadily continued.
“I’ve got a lot more use of my arms and fingers than when I got here, particularly my left arm,” Hains said. “I still don’t have any movement in my legs, but I have a lot of feeling down there. They’re continuing to work my legs, too, to keep the circulation going.
“Every other day they put me on, I call it on the rack. They did that in Nebraska too. They strap and tilt me up where I’m about 70 degrees to the ground and leave me for about 20-25 minutes. We’ll sometimes do some things while I’m up there. I can feel my feet on the ground and that’s getting circulation to my legs.
“We were told when this started — I was out of it the first month — but Lisa was told it might take two years for the legs to come back. And they might not come back. But we’re still working towards that.”
Beginning with Sunday’s Chiefs game, daughter Kathleen will help draw up his game notes and probably will do the same on the charts for Missouri State football games. Son Chris will be down from Kansas City to help out as well.
As for the technical logistics, it’s not much different than the many times he’s handled Chiefs’ duties from remote locations after doing Missouri State play-by-play. Hains’ voice is strong and he’s ready to roll.
I joked with Hains about the home-games-only schedule keeping him from the Bears’ final football trip to Western Illinois’ Hansen Field, and its prehistoric press box, in October. Western is leaving the Missouri Valley Football Conference at season’s end. Hains had a good chuckle. Anyone who’s ever been to Macomb’s press box would understand.
On a serious note, what about the emotions he will feel upon signing on for his first Missouri State broadcast in a year? The Bears’ football home open is Sept. 23rd, against Utah Tech.
“I’ve thought about that a little bit,” he said. “I think we’re gonna try to run by there (soon) and go up in the press box and check it out, so it’s not like I’m going in there for the first time when we actually broadcast. Just to make me feel a little better, to do that in advance.
“Then we’ll do our usual preparation, with some help, and hopefully we are ready to go on the 23rd.”
Before concluding our conversation, I asked about the prayers, the get-well cards and the GoFundMe donations from so many people, many he’s never even met.
“It’s meant the world to get the prayers, the cards,” he said. “Some people came to visit me in Lincoln, which is quite a time commitment. I appreciate it so much. I read every card. My wife was sending thank-you notes for quite a while. I don’t know if she ever got caught up. So many people have reached out.
“To be thought of in that way is truly humbling. It means so much that we’ve had so much support.”
Welcome back, Art.
Media Contact: Lyndal Scranton