Lincoln-Way East’s Sarah Dobrich glad to have dad back

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Lincoln-Way East junior Sarah Dobrich had several reasons to be happy over the weekend, after a solid five matches at the Rich East Invitational in which she totaled 21 service points, 17 kills, eight blocks and six aces.

The biggest smile on her face came Friday night, and it had nothing to do with statistics.

Her father, Carl Dobrich, was in the grandstands watching. She wouldn’t have traded that for all the kills in the world.

It was exactly a year ago when both his and her worlds were temporarily turned upside down, the fun and games of a volleyball weekend turned into a fight for life.

The Griffins were in pool play that Friday night at Marist. Carl Dobrich, as usual, was there to watch for a while before leaving to take his son, Michael, to watch Mount Carmel play football.

“They got home around 11 o’clock,” Sarah Dobrich remembered. “He didn’t feel well, so my mom (Kathy) gave him some aspirin. He said he felt like his jaw started to tighten up, and my mom realized we had to get him into the hospital. She thought he was having a heart attack.”

The kids already been had off to bed when Carl Dobrich went to Silver Cross Hospital. Sarah woke up to that news the next morning, and was told by her mother to go with the team to Rich East for the second day of the tournament.

“She told me it could be really bad,” Sarah said, “but she tried to spare me the details of what was really going on because she knew I’d go on Google to research what was going to happen.

“She just told me to stay strong for my little brother and continue to go through my daily activities and pray for the best.”

Updates from her mom came all day, and each one sounded more and more ominous.

That Saturday night, Carl Dobrich was transported him to Northwestern Hospital with an aortic dissection, a life-threatening condition in which one of the major arteries to the heart is torn. On Sunday, he was taken into surgery for what was a 17-hour procedure.

“They kept fixing the problem, but it wasn’t holding,” Sarah Dobrich said. “They had to try the procedure three times.”

All the while Sarah was at home watching her little brother, while her older sisters Rebecca and Rachel were at the hospital.

“I was very, very scared,’ Sarah Dobrich said. “It was just me and my little brother. I had to stay strong for him, because you don’t want him to be scared like that. It was very difficult.

“Saturday through Monday was the most anxious time period, because you didn’t know what was happening. I had a million things going through my mind.”

After surgery, Carl Dobrich was kept in an induced coma for three days. He stayed in the hospital for three weeks before coming home — coincidentally, on the volleyball team’s “Parent Appreciation Night.”

Several months of vigorous rehabilitation later, life has returned to normal in the Dobrich household. Carl Dobrich, a retired police officer, works as a senior director of investigations at a security firm. He’s still a hands-on dad, going to all of the kids’ sporting events.

Friday was quite an emotional one-year anniversary. Sarah Dobrich and her father shared a big hug after her match.

“It definitely felt weird just to think about, ‘Wow, a year ago coming home that night I didn’t think anything was going to happen, and then it did,’ ” she said.

“[Friday] I wanted to play my best for him and appreciate that he was there watching me. You learn to appreciate the moments you have with the people around you.”

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