It was a little more than a year ago when Dave O’Neal gained recognition across campus and beyond when a photograph of him in a hospital gown at the 2018 Homecoming football game went viral on the internet.
While the WVU Alumni Band performed on High Street on Friday during the Homecoming Parade, o…
“I’d get up to go get a beer, and I’d have people walking up to take pictures with me everywhere,” O’Neal said. “I had a friend all the way up at the Virginia Tech game who texted me, ‘What’s wrong with you? What happened?’”
O’Neal attended WVU from 1983 to 1990, pursuing a doctorate from the dental school. Having played trumpet in The Pride of West Virginia, O’Neal is now self-employed at his own dental practice in Maryland, and is one of the officers of the WVU Alumni Band.
O’Neal’s story began when he, after experiencing stomach pains, chills and bouts of dry heaving, was scheduled to have an emergency appendectomy on the same day he had intended to march with the Alumni Band in the Homecoming parade.
Having recovered enough to be released the following morning, O’Neal decided to make the most out of the situation and regain the partying he had missed with his old friends the previous night. Wearing his hospital gown over light clothing, O’Neal simply walked over to the nearby football game.
“It was so funny,” he said, “I just wanted to go to the game. I got out of the hospital and just walked right across the road. I felt fine, but I had people walking up to me all day, saying I should go back to treatment. They thought I had gone AWOL from the hospital.”
Despite a year having passed since the hilarious incident, word of it still travels with him to this day. One incident O’Neal described had him being asked about it in a board meeting all the way in Seattle, from a man representing the University of Georgia.
“I wasn’t in there for more than 10 seconds before he walked up and asked, ‘Aren’t you that guy in the gown?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, that’s me.’ I get recognized all the time in weird places — it happens very often.”
O’Neal still has the hospital gown that made him internet famous, which he wore to practice for the Alumni Band on Oct. 5. He originally wanted to wear it in the Homecoming parade the previous day, but decided against it when he learned that he and his fellow officers were to march alongside those who had been nominated as outstanding alumni, all wearing the same shirt.
O’Neal is proud to be a member of his band, and he emphasized the impact it had on him and his social life.
“To this day, I still have routine patients of mine who’re old friends from back when we played in the band together,” O’Neal said. “I know several people who’ve found and kept strong connections just by being a part of it.”
Having only happy memories involving the incident, O’Neal has also suffered no further complications related to the emergency surgery. He attributed this to Ruby Medical’s skilled practitioners.
“I was really impressed by the care I got at Ruby,” he said. “I’m really critical when it comes to cleanliness and efficiency, being in the medical field myself, and they did not disappoint.”
He considers it but one more of the countless reasons he has to keep coming back to Morgantown.
“I love WVU. I try to always have an excuse to come back here and do something, no matter what,” O’Neal said in an inteview a couple weeks after the 2019 Homecoming. “I honestly think I’m going through Homecoming withdrawal right now; there’s just nothing to do around here!”