By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The start of the spring semester at Bridgewater State University was only four days away in January 2016 when Kyle Dance went for a medical test.
The Bears’ defensive back, who had made the All-Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference football second team only two months earlier, had a routine barium swallow, which is done to check for abnormalities in the stomach and esophagus.
But on the ride home following that procedure, Dance began to vomit, then did so again when he arrived home and started coughing uncontrollably.
An ambulance was called, and Dance was rushed to the hospital, not knowing what was going on.
“About an hour after I took it, I was in an ambulance,” recalled Dance. “When I got to the hospital, I had 20 doctors around me. In 10 minutes, they put me out, and I didn’t know what happened.”
Dance, who is from the West Roxbury section of Boston and attended the Boston Latin Academy before enrolling at Bridgewater State, wound up in a coma for several days and was in what he describes as a “life-threatening ″ situation with his “body in shock” while at Children’s Hospital during a month-long stay.
Complications from the barium swallow, a metallic compound, left Dance reeling just when he was supposed to be starting the second semester of his sophomore year at BSU.
“I ended up getting a blood clot and then I ended up with fluid in my lungs,” said Dance. “It was a fiasco, and the doctors didn’t really know what was going on with my body, so I was in and out of the hospital from January until almost the summer.”
He wound up being hospitalized two other times in the next few months because of similar episodes before the situation finally became manageable through medication. But it was a rough time for Dance, who lost significant weight and suffered damage to his lungs.
“It was very stressful. It was very different,” said the physical education major. “I think in the early stages, I did (worry) a lot because I didn’t know what was going on with my body.
“I was bed-ridden for a month. I couldn’t move at all. I was in the hospital two times after that because of episodes. It was a couple of months before (it was under control).
“It was scary. I didn’t know what would happen. I didn’t know when I’d have an episode again. I’d be back to square one, back to the hospital, couldn’t play football. Luckily, Children’s Hospital did a good job of getting me the right medication to deal with whatever I had.”
Dance was fourth on the BSU defense with 52 tackles and had an interception and four pass breakups as a freshman in 2014. He earned the all-conference honors in 2015 after finishing second on the Bears with 59 tackles to go with three interceptions and six breakups.
Hopes were high for Dance, who has played cornerback and safety during his career, with two more seasons left in his career.
But the complications with the barium swallow left him unable to play as a junior in the 2016 season.
“I was in bed for a month, so I had to basically learn to walk again,” Dance said. “I’d be in a wheelchair. Then I’d get tired real quick when I started walking again. I couldn’t work out.
“My body just wasn’t ready, so I had to take that whole year off.”
He returned in 2017 and made four tackles in the first two games, but then a broken hand sustained away from football last September ended Dance’s comeback season.
“It was literally the best thing ever to get back that season,” said Dance. “I didn’t know if I was going to play football again, so it meant a lot to play again.
“I was excited to get back on the field, but then I broke my hand. It took a toll on me physically and mentally. A lot of people were counting on me and I was down because it was just a tough year for me, especially after not playing the year before that.”
Dance, who will finish his degree requirements in December, came back again this season with the Bears and started his final season in impressive fashion.
He was selected the MASCAC defensive player of the week after making six tackles and returning an interception 45 yards in a 30-29 opening-day win over Buffalo State.
Being back on the field after playing only two games the previous two seasons and facing a life-threatening situation was a reward in itself for Dance.
“I was actually surprised when I got defensive player of the week,” said Dance, who has 127 tackles and five interceptions in his career. “It had been a while since I had played football.”
But after two games this season, Dance is back on the sideline.
He has been dealing with a back ailment for several years, and that has flared up again, forcing Dance out of the lineup in the Bears’ past two games against Framingham State and Fitchburg State.
A doctor’s appointment scheduled for this week will determine if he can get back onto the football field, and there are only six games left in Dance’s career.
“It was phenomenal that he came back the way he did to play,” said BSU coach Joe Verria. “I was so happy and proud of him. I feel so bad for him now to be out again.
“He is a kid who has improved academically, who grew here at Bridgewater State. He’s what Division 3 football is all about, and now this happens. It’s just terrible. It’s too bad. He’s a good kid.
“All of this just goes to prove you never know when your last play is going to be.”
After all he has been through, Dance is trying to keep a positive attitude about getting back to playing football again, but it’s difficult.
“This is pretty bad,” he said. “I’m trying to keep a level head. Each and every day takes a little toll on me to not be able to get out there for another year.
“You can’t take anything for granted. I thought I was good. I was playing again, but literally anything can happen. I know that.”
All of the problems that unfolded after that barium swallow in 2016 seem to be in the rear-view mirror, though, for Dance.
“I haven’t had an episode since that year,” he said. “I take medicine. We’re just being very cautious with it. Right now, I’m perfectly healthy with that.
“But it’s been a long ride.”