BY JEFF FALK
There are those who go unnoticed when they’re not around. And there are others we simply want to go away.
When Mike Ebersole’s presence is absent there’s dead air. For where Ebersole goes, the party follows.
The Lebanon Valley College football team is in the midst of a great season, yet one that has a bit of an incomplete feel to it. What’s missing is Ebersole, the voice of the Flying Dutchmen.
While former Elco announcer and middle school principal Keith Dubois has filled in admirably for Ebersole, home Flying Dutchmen football games just aren’t the same. What’s missing is the familiarity of the voice that has become synonymous with LVC football.
Ebersole has been sidelined from his job as Lebanon Valley’s public address announcer by a serious of critical and reoccurring illnesses. The good news is that Ebersole is on the mend and expects to rebound in time to resume his duties as public address announcer for Flying Dutchmen home hoop tilts.
While the start of the basketball season is only a month away, it seems much longer than that in Ebersole’s world.
“It’s killing me,” said Ebersole recently. “I wanted to call that Lyco game so bad. I wanted to be there doing it. I’m chomping at the bit and I’m excited for basketball season. I love the game, love the players, love the coaches, love the fans. I just love that environment, that atmosphere.
“As far as basketball goes, the doctors didn’t tell me not to do it,” Ebersole continued. “It’s a bit of a grueling schedule. I have a couple of games a week. I have late nights and I get up early. But I didn’t do football to be in condition to be ready for basketball.”
For Ebersole, public address announcing at LVC – as well as at his alma matter Elizabethtown High School – represents a return to normalcy, the reinstatement of his routine. For a time about eight months ago, it looked like Ebersole might never return to that routine.
Ebersole, who works full-time at Lebanon radio stations WQIC/WLBR, was stricken with unrelated digestive and heart ailments that later became related. He was off work for eight months, before returning in September.
“It’s very cliche-ish, but when you’re faced with your own mortality, you find out what’s important. I had to face it four times,” said Ebersole. “I have to remind myself that it takes time. They say that every day you spend in the hospital is a week of recovery. I’m reminded by my activity, that sometime I hit the wall. I’m reminded that I’ve got to be patient with it. I want to be well, and I want to be well now.
“I don’t take anything for granted any more,” added Ebersle. “In the blink of an eye, your life can change. I realized that you shouldn’t sweat the small stuff.”
Ebersole, who handles the news and sports on WQIC’s Early Morning Show with Steve Todd, had always been a healthy and active guy. But his health history did include heart issues for his father.
“Initially it was a digestive infection that had me in the hospital for 14 days. And they (the doctors couldn’t beat it,” said Ebersole, 57. “Then on Easter morning, I had a pain in my chest. I thought it was indigestion. I waited about an hour and it didn’t get any better. I called the ambulance and on the way there (the hospital) they said, ‘You’re having an episode.’
“They also phoned in a code red,” Ebersole continued. “And I thought to myself, ‘That’s not good.’ And then when they told me to chew some baby aspirin, I thought, ‘that’s not good.’ And then when they gave me nitroglycerin, I thought ‘It’s a heart attack.’ When I was in the ambulance, I thought to myself ‘I’m alone.'”
During surgery, Ebersole’s doctors discovered that one of his heart’s arteries was 100 percent blocked and that another was 95 percent clogged. Not long after he had recovered from that operation, a relapse of his digestive condition restricted him to the hospital for another three weeks.
“I was told that basically, ‘you might not come out alive,'” said Ebersole. “But I had it done and I came back. I had hemoglobin issues and four blood transfusions. I got so thin and gone, and I got down to 164 pounds. One time I looked at myself in the mirror and I was so thin. At home I had to recover so I could have a second heart procedure. And the long recovery at home drove me crazy. I couldn’t go anywhere. I was helpless.
“The hardest part was coming face to face with your own mortality,” added Ebersole. “Knowing, ‘This could be it’, and it didn’t happen – but four times. One time, I saw my family and it was like, ‘Wow this could be the last time I see them.’ It was a tough pill to swallow. It was very emotional. Now I have this phobia of hospitals because I don’t want to go back.”
In all, Ebersole spent 49 days in the hospital. That’s the equivalent of seven weeks to you and me.
“I missed good food and I missed my work,” said Ebersole, who’s been employed at WLBR/WQIC for 17 years. “I really missed my job. I’ve told people, ‘You won’t hear me complain about going back to work any more.’ I’m so grateful I can go back and that I still had my job. (Station owner) Robert Etter, (program director) Steve Davies and all the part-timers who filled in for me, a lot of people picked up the slack. It put a stress on the staff and they went to bat for me.
“I was amazed by the love and support I received from listeners, some I don’t even know,” added Ebersole. “You never realize how you become a part of people’s lives and how you become a fabric of people’s lives. I just appreciated being back.”
Ebersole is now faced with sort of a Catch-22 prognosis. He must do what his doctors tell him to avoid another trip to the hospital.
“I’m blessed by the fact that I now only have to take four medications a day,” said Ebersole. “If I behave myself and be a good boy, I should live a long life. They want me to keep my weight at 190. Whatever they (his doctors) say, I’m going to do. They want me to exercise, so I do a lot of walking. And once I get my strength back, I’ll go back to the gym again.”