Slater Springman thought his baseball practice at Freed-Hardeman University Aug. 24 would be like any other—run a few sprints, hit a few balls and possibly work some catching drills. Four weeks later, however, the former Oklahoma Christian University catcher found himself battling for his life, having just awoken from a medically-induced coma.
Springman was practicing with the baseball team running laps when he collapsed, according to the Facebook group “Praying for Slater Springman,” which currently has over 3,500 members. He was taken into the field house and iced down. After 911 was called, he was flown to Jackson Medical Center in Jackson, TN when his core body temperature would not come down from 105 degrees. It was later determined he was suffering from a severe heat stroke.
Because he experienced multiple seizures, doctors decided to place him in a medically induced coma to begin kidney dialysis, as his organs were not functioning properly.
“I have been keeping in touch with the family,” Oklahoma Christian head baseball coach Lonny Cobble said. “They have kept the team updated daily and the guys have prayed for Slater each day before and after practice. This is a scary time for his family and himself. I can’t imagine as a father what they are going through.”
The red-shirted sophomore attended Oklahoma Christian from 2015-2018 before transferring to Freed Hardeman this fall to continue his baseball career. Since hearing of his recent condition, individuals around the country have taken to Facebook to send thoughts and prayers to both Springman and his family.
“I met Slater my freshman year of college and we became best friends instantly,” junior Paris Holtzlander said. “He’s one of the most genuine, caring, funny people you will ever meet. When he told me he was transferring to Freed-Hardeman, I was so upset but I knew it was what was best for him to do. About two weeks later, I got engaged and he kept asking me if he could be in the wedding and I finally told him, yes, but I had to figure out what he would do. He was so happy about it.”
A prayer event was held Sept. 5 on Bader Green at Freed-Hardeman by its Student Government Association, while earlier that week, a group gathered at LifeChurch in Edmond to lift up the Springman family. The University of Oklahoma softball team also videoed their prayer during one of their practices and uploaded the video to the “Praying for Slater Springman” Facebook group.
“Slater is one of my best friends I have met at OC, and to see the community come together to support his family and pray for him is just so special,” senior Kayla Eichler said. “It goes to show just how much of an impact Slater has had on so many different people’s lives.”
After waking from his coma Sept. 11, Springman was said to be “pretty alert,” nodding his head and mouthing a few answers to questions. According to Robin Hawkins Burch, who has been posting updates from the family each day, a nurse asked Springman what position he played and he mouthed back, “catcher.”
He looked to be recovering Sept. 16, when he posted on Snapchat with the caption, “Been here in a coma,” but soon after, things took a turn for the worse, according to Burch.
“Please lift Slater immediately in prayer,” Burch wrote Sept. 16. “He is having several difficulties this morning and we are very frightened. Slater’s hemoglobin dropped early this morning. His breathing has also worsened some several hours ago. Slater is just so weak. The doctors said we will just stabilize his breathing and support his blood supply as best we can to keep Slater alive over the next few days, so his weak body can try to heal.”
A few days later, on Sept. 19, Burch’s prayers were answered. His blood work numbers improved and he began staying awake and alert longer. Now, although Burks said he is still very weak, he has been able to make small movements through physical and occupational therapy, even sending texts to family and close friends like senior Lacey Davidson.
“He has been through a lot but he has always stayed strong,” Davidson said. “He has been a shoulder to lean on and someone to laugh with, no matter what. Slater is the most loving, caring and supportive person I know.”
Springman continues to recover each day, according to Burch, and is currently in the process of trying to move to Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, OK. Although he is facing “roadblocks” with insurance not covering transportation back to his hometown, Holtzlander said she is confident of Springman’s recovery and is looking forward to the opportunity to make more memories with one of her “best friends.”
“Freshman year, we would always just sit and talk about literally everything—personal stuff, politics, even OC drama,” Holtzlander said. “He was the first guy at OC to meet my parents and it was such a fun time because my parents had Slater dying laughing the entire night. He is and forever will be one of the most amazing people of my life. He makes the best of everything and he has so many people who love him and are just as close to him as I am. He is strong. I know he’s going to be okay and back to catching in no time at all.”