[Sandy Bressner - firstname.lastname@example.org]
Chernich was on constant dialysis for his kidneys, intubated, and was using a feeding tube. Tubes protruded everywhere.
That Sunday, May 27, was Geneva's graduation.
Nguyen almost didn't walk. He wanted to be with 'Chern.'
Four senior wrestlers – Michael Donatelli, Craig Hope, Armando Martinez and Nguyen wore their headgear – instead of graduation caps – in tribute to Chernich.
"It just showed they also cared a lot about him," Nguyen said. "Tom's done so much for [us] as a coach and as a role model."
Nguyen has just finished his first semester at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where Tom himself wrestled from 1991-94. In 1993, Chernich was honored as an All American at 190 pounds.
"I do believe people praying for me...the support that I got, got me through this," Chernich said. "I also believe, if I wasn't a wrestler, I'd be dead."
Chernich stayed at Northwestern Hospital for exactly four weeks. Upon leaving, he entered rehab at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital on June 23, where he remained for three weeks.
Chernich then returned to his parent's house. He received dialysis three times a week at 5:30 a.m. Physical and occupational therapy was reserved for Tuesdays and Thursdays.
In early September, Chernich learned he needed heart surgery to correct leaky valves. He eventually had the corrective surgery that month.
Less than two months later, Chernich was back at Geneva, working half days.
Two weeks after that, he returned full time.
"I'm happier than I've ever been," Chernich said. "I used to be afraid of death. I'm not afraid of dying anymore."