For the first time in five weeks, Jim Dooley slept in his own bed Sunday night.

The Delone Catholic boys' basketball coach returned home at 10 p.m. Sunday after spending weeks at Johns Hopkins Hospital, battling apalastic anemia, a rare disease that causes bone marrow to stop making red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets for the body.

"What a treat it is to be home," his wife Mary Dooley said. "Sleeping in your own bed is worth a whole lot."

Though the longtime coach still has a long recovery to go, her husband hasn't ruled out returning to the sidelines to help with the Squires basketball program this winter, she said.

"He's assuming he'll be strong enough," she said. "Even if he doesn't have his marrow working full-bore, that he'll be strong enough to get back in the gym."

Seven weeks ago, the 68-year-old coach went to Gettysburg Hospital with a swollen ankle, thinking it was a sprain, or at worst, Lyme disease. After a few rounds of blood transfusions revealed his platelets were low, he was rushed to York Hospital and eventually Johns Hopkins for an advanced procedure.

For four days, he was placed on an IV drip that injected two high-powered drugs into his body for up to 15 hours of the day. Over the last two weeks, he's been fighting off disease while gaining enough strength to come home.


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The procedure is called immunosuppressive drug therapy, and it prevents the immune system from attacking bone marrow, letting stem cells grow back while raising blood counts, according to aamds.org, the Aplastic Anemia MDS International Foundation website.

Eight to 10 patients respond positively to the treatment, the website states.

"Medically speaking, that's a high rate of success," his daughter Molly Wiles said. "But when it's your parent, that's not a high enough rate for me."

Mary said the procedure may have saved his life, but the support from his basketball community kept him fighting. He didn't want his current players to see him in poor health, but their phone calls helped. Visits from former players from Delone, Gettysburg, Cumberland Valley and even Shippensburg high schools, some nearly 50 years old now, inspired him.

On the wall of his recovery room, his wife put a poster of his 700th victory, a game in which Dooley's grandson, Jake Wiles, scored 20 points to help beat Camp Hill. Dooley and his wife watched videos of the Squires' back-to-back District 3 Class AA championships the team won in each of the last two years, sometimes even drawing the attention of the nurses.

"That was a big shot in the arm for him," Mary said. "He'd say, 'Those are my kids. Those are the kids I'll coach this year.'"

The family was thrilled to see the old ball coach return home, but Wiles said he'll still have to wait a while for visitors. Right now, his white blood cell count is too low to risk getting sick.

"We've had to be crazy careful, even with family," Wiles said. "Hopefully it'll be quick for him. He likes people."

Wiles said listening to his voice on the phone, it's hard to tell anything is wrong with her father. He even looks "remarkably better" than he did a few weeks ago, though there is still a ways to go before he is fully recovered, she added.

Jim was unable to come to the phone Monday, but he shouted from his bedroom to say he was alright.

"For a while we were thinking he's not going to be Jimmy anymore," Mary said. "But he's got his sense of humor back. His overall health is good except for this one very large issue."

Contact Adam Michael at 637-3736 ext. 123