Save Date: 11/9/2001
Activity: At health club
My sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurred on November 9, 2001, an easy day for me to remember, my 57th birthday! So, I now consider myself to have two birthdays, one in 1944 and one in 2001. It was a bright morning with the sun pouring through the floor-to-ceiling windows, warming the exercise floor of the Sports Club/LA in downtown Washington, D.C. I was doing my daily workout with my trainer Alan Angeles. He was counting down the seconds on his watch as I was jumping rope. I was thinking about the day ahead and the birthday activities in store. That night, my wife Katherine and our two boys, Matthew and Garrett, and I were going to the Wizards basketball game and I made a mental reminder to call ahead for early dinner reservations in the restaurant overlooking the court. Why was that my train of thought? As I was jumping, Michael Jordan was exercising with his trainer within my peripheral vision. That's the last thing I remember until I woke up in the hospital many hours later seeing my wife and best friend standing over me. Harold lived in Florida, so I must have sensed that some considerable amount of time had passed. The first thing I said was "I guess this means we're not going to the ballgame tonight."
This was what has been relayed to me. I crumpled to the floor and Alan yelled, "Richard is down." Several trainers came over--Vickie, Aisha, Thomas and Heather. One gave me mouth to mouth. I was getting blue. One started chest compressions, while another called for the AED and when it arrived, Alan started to shave my chest. Aisha placed the paddles on and shortly I was breathing. Elapsed time: approximately 10 minutes. While all this was happening, someone at the desk called 9-1-1 but it was busy! A friend, Eric Sivertsen, ran across the street to the fire station to summon the EMT team. Shortly after I started breathing, the responders to a second 9-1-1 call arrived and rushed me to the hospital. Since I was reportedly breathing normally, the emergency room personnel thought that my collapse was due to a stroke and were examining me for brain damage, not heart damage. But they figured it out and a heart surgeon, Dr. Conner Lundergan, installed a stent. Two weeks later I was back exercising and have been ever since.
P.S. A few weeks before my SCA, another member of the club, a younger man than me, collapsed and died. It took 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. A friend of mine and I, who had witnessed this, were appalled and suggested, among other things, that the club purchase an AED. They did and several trainers learned how to use it.