Pine Bluff Coach is Ready for the Ballpark Thanks to UAMS Surgeon

By Katrina Dupins

“She made me feel like I was family,” Stargell said. “Like she had known me for a while.”

Stargell was exposed to baseball at a very young age. It runs in the family. His father played; and his uncle is Hall of Famer Willie Stargell. Sebastian Stargell played with a semi-professional team called the Pine Bluff Braves for more than 20 years. All of his sons played at the collegiate level.

Baseball is still a big part of his life. He coaches for a Little League team (ages 13-15) called the Pine Bluff Phillies. Stargell has coached them to three Junior Babe Ruth World Series, and many of the team members have gone on to play in college or professionally.

Coach Stargell

Stargell coaches a player on the field during a game.

Being out on the field became harder for Stargell late last year. He started having headaches and didn’t feel like himself. He couldn’t sleep well, had trouble breathing and a constant runny nose. He scheduled an appointment with an ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist in Pine Bluff who diagnosed him with nasal polyps.

“The doctor told me the polyps would have to be surgically removed and referred me to Dr. Kanaan at UAMS,” Stargell said.

Nasal polyps are quite common, Kanaan says. They most often happen in patients who have chronic sinus infections or allergies. In Stargell’s case, his polyps stemmed from an infected tooth that he’d since had removed.

“If an upper tooth is infected, it can potentially lead to a sinus infection,” Kanaan said. “Looking at his scans, we could see the polyps were blocking his airway. Surgically removing the polyps would clear all of that.”

Kanaan says it’s time to see a doctor if a person has trouble breathing or has a sinus infection that lasts longer than three months.

“If you lose your sense of smell, you need to get checked out too,” she said. “I know that’s a symptom of COVID-19, but polyps could also do that. Other indicators include trouble breathing, sleeping and having green or yellow drainage coming from the nose.”

Alissa Kanaan, M.D.

Alissa Kanaan, M.D.

The thought of surgery worried Stargell, he said.

“When they talked about going inside your nose, and with the COVID-19 situation, it made me nervous,” he said. “I discussed it with her. She made me feel comfortable. She even gave me time to think it over. I didn’t feel rushed.”

The ENT clinic, along with all clinics at UAMS, have protocols in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Patients are tested before their appointments, and now most health care professionals have received the vaccine.

Stargell says Kanaan was confident. The athlete in him appreciated that.

“When I hear someone talk like that – like they know their game – I felt ready to have the operation.”

He had his surgery in November. In January, he saw Kanaan for his last follow-up appointment. He gave her a Pine Bluff Phillies baseball cap and shirt as a token of his appreciation. He especially likes that she kept him informed and centered his needs in her treatment approach.

“She told me exactly what to expect each step of the way,” Stargell said. “After about a week, I felt back to normal. Everything happened as she said.”

Now that he’s back to his old self, Stargell is ready to step up to the plate and coach his team.

“It’s not enough for me to tell my players what I’m looking for,” Stargell said. “I have to get out there and show them. Now I have the energy I need to coach them. I’m so appreciative of this hospital. UAMS is the best.”