Jermile Richards had his future mapped out. Then life happened. At six-foot-three, 320 pounds, he played football in high school, junior college and with a semi-professional league. Once his playing days were over, he returned home to Cartersville to begin coaching at the middle-school level. It was during this time that Jermile’s life would drastically change.
The then 25-year-old Jermile was preparing for work and began feeling dizzy. Alone at the time, Jermile was on the phone with his mother when he fainted. She called 9-1-1. “My mom beat the paramedics to my house,” Jermile recalled. “If I hadn’t been on the phone with her, it could’ve been a lot worse.”
Jermile was life-flighted to Emory Hospital and admitted to ICU in a comatose state. He suffered a hemorrhagic stroke due to bleeding into the brain from abnormal brain vessels. Doctors alerted his family to say their goodbyes and prepare for his funeral. Amazingly, after three weeks, Jermile emerged from his coma.
A Second Chance
“I am a miracle,” he said. “I got a second chance.” Upon completing a series of tests, Jermile was diagnosed with Moyamoya disease – a rare, progressive cerebrovascular disorder caused by blocked arteries at the base of the brain.
Doctors immediately ordered two surgeries to restore blood flow to Jermile’s brain by opening narrowed blood vessels and bypassing blocked arteries. With two long visible scar lines running vertical on each side of his head, Jermile explained they had to reroute his main arteries from behind his eyes sockets to allow better blood flow.
The long road back to recovery continued with a six-month rehabilitation stint at Atlanta’s renowned Shepherd Center. There, Jermile was tasked with re-learning how to walk, talk, eat and run. His experience sparked a life-changing discovery of a new passion – health and fitness.
“I saw the changes in other people’s lives, and I wanted to be a part of it,” Jermile said.
He proudly shares the day he resumed a normal life. “July 7, 2010. I’ll never forget that day,” he said.
Discovering a Healthy Lifestyle
Jermile returned to work and landed a coaching position on Kennesaw Mountain High School’s football staff. However, without a bachelor’s degree, he was searching for other educational or training opportunities to pursue his new passion of health and fitness.
“My wife is a KSU graduate and receives the school’s mailings,” Jermile said. “She knows how much health is important to me and alerted me of the Health Coach Certificate program.”
The program taught Jermile how to transform the way people live by expanding his expertise in exercise science, fitness and behavior modification. Additionally, he received hands-on training in implementing weight and stress management plans, incorporating physical activity to improve overall health and improving nutrition and eating habits.
“This class was a great opportunity for me,” Jermile said. “The program was very affordable when compared to other colleges. The time frame was great, and the instructors were very knowledgeable.”
Since graduating from the program, Jermile has taken charge of his own health and fitness. By adding more exercise and an improved diet, he’s seen his weight drop from 320 to 245 pounds. He now takes advantage of every opportunity to talk to people about making healthy choices.
Jermile’s Health Tips
- Stay away from fast food
- Cook your own food
- Drink more water
- Be more physically active
- Learn to read nutrition labels
A Heart for Kids
Jermile especially has a heart for kids — specifically for the subject of childhood obesity. He cites the fact that more than one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese in the U.S. “America is one of the most obese nations due to all the food ads we see and cheap prices of fast food,” he said. “It’s food anywhere you look.”
Up next for Jermile is to continue his coaching at KMHS, but with a newfound mission of instilling health and fitness knowledge into his players. He also plans on taking the American Council on Exercise Health Coach Certification exam to boost his credentials and create future opportunities to educate others on healthy living.
Excited about his future, Jermile, now 31, reflected on his past six years by saying, “I’m thankful I had that stroke because I probably wouldn’t be here today. It was definitely a wakeup call.”