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It didn't even cross Greg Kampe's mind to think about how much longer he'd be coaching Oakland men's basketball.

That's because he was much more worried about how much longer he was going to live.

"A nurse in the room," said Kampe, "asked me if I wanted a clergyman."

That'll put your priorities in order, and in a hurry.

On Wednesday, Kampe, after much hesitation, shared his story of a scary health situation earlier this summer that had him laid up for more than two weeks, and undergoing multiple surgeries.

His most recent bout with kidney stones led to major complications, including a battle with a life-threatening blood infection called sepsis, and Kampe spent five days in ICU in the middle of July.

Kampe went back and forth debating whether sharing the story publicly, but ultimately decided to, if for no other reason than to urge others, especially men, to get checked out before it's too late.

Inaction can be deadly.

"It's almost like to let people know, especially males, they need to go to the hospital," Kampe said. "I know coaches are going to use this against me in recruiting, 'This guy's sick, he's not going to be coaching there anymore.'

"But I think it's worthwhile."

'I'm just getting a cold'

It was supposed to be a happy night, the night of March 14, when Oakland rallied from a 20-point deficit in the second half to beat Clemson in the NIT  the Golden Grizzlies first victory, ever, in the second-tier postseason tournament.

The next morning, back in his office in Rochester, Kampe was in extreme pain, and multiple coworkers told him to get to the hospital.

Three hours later, he was undergoing surgery. Doctors couldn't get the kidney stone out, but they installed a stent and he coached the Oakland's next game on March 19 at Richmond, where the Golden Grizzlies lost and ended their season.

A week later, he was back in the hospital having more surgery, and this time, they got the stone  but additional tests showed a significantly larger stone lodged in the kidney.

So the stent stayed in, and he was put on medicines to help dissolve the kidney, but by July, it wasn't working.

But this is where misplaced priorities often bite those in big-time collegiate athletics. July is a heavy recruiting period for college basketball, so Kampe put off another procedure to travel to the Peach Jam in Augusta, Ga., and another amateur event, in nearby Atlanta, put on by Under Armour.

The gym in Atlanta was freezing, as often is the case given the hot summer temperatures outside.

"Coaches are sitting there watching games in sweatpants and long sleeves," Kampe said. "And I'm getting very sick.

"But I'm thinking I'm just getting a cold."

So he decided to soldier on the next day to Atlanta for the Under Armour showcase.

That's when his assistant coach, Dan Hipsher, took one look at him that morning and knew something was wrong.

Kampe was dry-heaving and vomiting, and had to lean on the bleachers behind the basket because he couldn't even stand up.

He rushed to the bathroom to throw up and then returned.

"And Hipsher said to me, 'Your face is completely yellow,'" Kampe said. "I said, 'I can't stay here.'"

'Something was wrong'

Kampe took off for the airport, and was so sick and weak on the way, he stopped at a Taco Bell, pulled around back and tried to lay down.

He then continued on to the airport, changed his flight and got back to Michigan. After arriving at his home in Waterford, he was shaking and shivering, despite the outside temps, so he got in his hot tub.

"But I was still shaking," Kampe said. "I knew this just wasn't the stent anymore. The last four months, I was so uncomfortable, I thought it was the remnants of the stent in me."

So Kampe, finally, hightailed it to Rochester Hills' Crittenton Hospital because that's where his regular urologist is based.

After stabilizing him, running a bunch of tests and taking some X-rays, doctors prepared to move him to ICU.

There, his temperature was taken. It read 106.7 degrees (normal is 98.6). Kampe started having convulsions. He wasn't just shivering anymore. His arms and legs were flying, and he couldn't stop it.

"When I heard, 'Rapid response to Room 804 or whatever,' I knew something was wrong," Kampe said. "Within a minute, there were probably 15 people in there. My heart rate laying in the bed was 146, which is full exercise. On a treadmill for 30 minutes, you're at about 140-150. I was just laying there."

That's when the nurse asked if he wanted a clergyman.

This is where things get a little fuzzy for Kampe, who has a several-hour gap in his memory.

The next thing he remembered, he woke up around 2 in the morning, sitting in a chair, with doctors icing him down to get the temperature down. They finally did, down to 102.

"What they told me was the kidney stones got infected, which was my fault," Kampe said. "I should've had them out earlier."

The infection got into the bloodstream, which is sepsis  a take off the word "septic," or toxic. Blood pressure drops. Circulation decreases. It typically affects adults, and typically males.

And it absolutely can be deadly.

"It's a really dangerous circumstance," said Dr. Jay Hollander, of Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. "It has the potential to be fatal."

During his early hours in ICU, Kampe also was pumped full of fluids, leading to water in his lungs  which led to worries about possible pneumonia. All told, Kampe was in ICU from July 16-20 before being stable enough to move to a regular room.

He was released on July 21, without the surgery, which couldn't yet happen because of the infection.

Kampe finally had the surgery a week later, as doctors went through his back to remove the stone  and eventually pulled out six infected stones.

He returned the following week to have the stent removed.

'I would've died'

The whole ordeal, as you can imagine, was quite the eye-opener.

"Maybe if I'd have gone earlier, I wouldn't have gotten to the 'Code ...,' 'Rapid Response,' whatever," Kampe said. "Basically, if I would've said, 'Screw it' and tried to sleep it off, I would've died. That's the thing. That's the reason for telling the story, so people hear that. I'm not trying to have anybody feel sorry for me."

"That's what men do," Kampe said, of the stereotype that men often put off going to the doctor. "I'm telling you. Don't do that."

Kampe isn't quite back to 100 percent yet, but is working his way back, working three to four hours a day. At least it's August, a typically slow time for college coaches.

Hipsher ran the day-to-day operations in Kampe's two-week absence, and Hipsher and new assistant coach Tony Jones tag-teamed late July's recruiting efforts while Kampe focused on his health.

Kampe, always a stocky figure, knows changes have to come. He's undergone many tests to pinpoint why he's had such complications  but he knows the answer. And it's his diet. A man who typically could down four or five 20-ounce bottles of Diet Dr. Pepper a day is giving up soda. His favorite foods from 7-Eleven are being cut out. He's lost 25 pounds, and wants to lose even more.

"I probably have as bad a diet as anyone there is," Kampe said. "I love to eat. I love to cook. A good lunch for me is stopping at 7-Eleven and figuring out what they've got. I like gas-station food."

With that, Kampe told two reporters Wednesday afternoon that he'll still be talking to them in Year 45.

Kampe, 61, is entering his 34th season as head coach of the Golden Grizzlies. He's the third-longest tenured Division I coach at his current school, behind Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, and has compiled a record of 583-424, including 319-262 at the Division I level.

Last season, his team won its first Horizon League regular-season championship.

"I can't wait to get healthy," said Kampe, "and have a tremendous year."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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