Family of track coach wants others to be aware of rare tumor that took his life

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GARDNER, Kan. -- The track coach at Baker University died unexpectedly last year at age 35 and left behind a wife and three young children. Zach Kindler's wife wants others to know about the cause of death. Kindler had no idea that he had a rare tumor but there were symptoms.

Five years ago, Kindler had a severe headache. His blood pressure was sky-high. The diagnosis was migraine. It happened for a final time in August of last year. Kindler went into cardiac arrest and could not be revived.

"It's been horrible," said Sara Kindler. "We miss him so much. Just everyday, I think if this would have been found or if we would have known."

An autopsy revealed why Kindler died. It turns out that he didn't have migraines. He had a rare tumor sitting on top of a kidney in the adrenal gland. It's called pheochromocytoma. The tumor releases hormones that cause spikes in blood pressure. An endocrinologist at Shawnee Mission Medical Center says there's a class triad of symptoms.

"Usually we think about it when people have excessive sweating, intense headaches and also palpatations or a heart beating really fast," said Dr. Lisa Hayes.

Sara Kindler says her husband thought his episodes of sweating and a rapid heartbeat were anxiety. She was shocked to learn that about half of these tumors are diagnosed after death.

"When I read that, I had it instantly on my heart that something has to be done," said Kindler.

She's organized Cause for Kindler. A 5k will be held this Saturday, September 12, at the Baldwin Golf Course near where her husband was track coach at Baker University. Kindler wants to raise money and awareness so others will be diagnosed with pheochromocytoma and have their tumors removed before it's too late. When the tumor is removed, blood pressure returns to normal, lowering the chances of heart trouble, strokes and other problems.

"Even if it just helps one persons, that would be really great," she said.

Kindler says it's the best way to honor the memory of a great dad and husband.

Proceeds from the 5K will also go to a scholarship at Baker in memory of Zach Kindler.