WILLIAMSTOWN - It's been a tough end of the school year for Williamstown High School Principal Pat Peters who next week will undergo his third major surgery in less than two years.
Peters is scheduled to have a mass removed and an aortic graft June 15 at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Peters said the surgery is expected to last eight to 12 hours with a recovery at the hospital of two to three weeks.
"That was what they told me last time, too," he said. "I flatlined twice and ended up there for 68 days."
On Aug. 28, 2010, the beginning of the 2010-11 school year, Peters underwent major surgery to have a large tumor removed. What was supposed to be a relatively standard procedure became a 14-hour ordeal, with Peters' heart stopping while he was on the operating table.
Surgeons operated again Sept. 3, 2010, after finding a hole in his stomach and signs of possible infection. He coded again while on the operating table and was brought back. Sixty of the 68 days Peters spent at Cleveland Clinic were in the intensive care unit.
Part of the original mass was left behind and during the surgeries Peters suffered a collapsed lung and damage to some of his organs. He recently was told his heart shows signs of a massive heart attack, damage likely from the two times his heart stopped and he was brought back, even though he had no previous medical history of a heart attack.
Peters returned home Oct. 28, 2010, but he was extremely weak and faced a difficult recovery period. Seemingly against odds, Peters returned to the school and to his position as principal in February 2011.
Now he again faces the prospect of a difficult surgery and recovery. During a recent checkup doctors found the remaining mass had grown from the size of a golfball to the size of a tennis ball, Peters said. Its location also is causing issues with his liver and other organs.
Peters said he will lose his left kidney in the surgery and doctors are worried of possible damage to his right kidney.
"That is a huge fear," he said.
Some plans have been made for Peters' time away from the school.
"We don't know the extent or time of this" absence, said Superintendent Pat Law. "We are anticipating there will be some time involved here, and we are prepared to provide support this summer to the school."
Law said if Peters is able to return only on a limited basis or is unable to return, the central office would work to provide additional resources for the WHS staff at the beginning of the school year.
Peters said he is working with Mike Winland, director of secondary schools for Wood County Schools, to set up resources for the summer. Peters said he will rely heavily on Assistant Principal Randy Edge to take care of the day-to-day administration of the school while he is gone.
"I've tried to create files of things for Mr. Edge," he said. "I've tried to get everything organized for scheduling for this fall."
If he is unable to return by the start of school, Peters said Dave Burton, a former assistant principal at Williamstown High School, would likely step in to help run WHS in his absence. Burton filled in when Peters was out from his first surgery in the fall of 2010.
Beyond that, Peters said, no solid plans have been made. Law said he ultimately is hoping for Peters to make a quick recovery.
"We like Pat," Law said. "He is a good administrator and a nice fellow."
Peters tears up when asked about the future and whether he will return to his position as principal of WHS.
"If both kidneys become compromised, I don't see me coming back," he said. "I want to come back. My goal is to come back.
"I have a lot of memories here. I love this school. I want to come back."