April 12, 2011 – That’s a date that will never be forgotten in the Ballard household. That’s the day that Bobby collapsed after a training run. He had a massive heart attack – the one they call “the widow maker.”
Early in 2010, at nearly 300 pounds and fighting high blood pressure, Bobby
had made a decision to get healthier, lose weight, eat better, and take charge
of his life. He began by walking at the
mall. Those first few days, it was all
he could do to make
one lap. Then it was two laps – and three laps – until he was up to six laps (the equivalent of six miles) and he had lost 70 pounds. It was late 2010 and he asked his doctor if he could start running. Since he was already WALKING six miles a day, the doctor didn’t see any reason for him not to.
In February 2011, he signed up for an “Anyone Can Run” class at the Joplin Family Y. They started out slowly with a 30-minute run/walk combination to slowly work up to a full 30-minute run. The goal for the class was to run in the Armed Forces 5K in May – the graduation run for the class.
On Tuesday, April 12, 2011, Bobby met his class at the park to run. Out and back, the class finished their 3-mile run. Everyone, including Bobby, had grabbed water to cool down after the run. He announced to the class that he was tired, sat down, and that was it. It was around 7 pm.Bobby had many angels on his shoulders that day! The first angel was the nurse who had been running with him in the class. She immediately recognized what was happening and her nursing instincts took over. While others in the class stepped back and called 9-1-1, the nurse started performing CPR (she would later tell Bobby that was the first time she ever had to and she was worried that SHE wouldn’t do it right!)
Within a couple of minutes or so, the ambulance arrived. While he was on the ground, they used their mechanical CPR device commonly called the “Thumper” (or “Geezer Squeezer” by the crew!) Because of its violent nature, they don’t like to use it where the public can see it in action, but they had no choice with Bobby. Continuing to work on him, they got him into the ambulance and on the way to the hospital. The Thumper was used on Bobby seven times! Once at the hospital, Bobby began to try to move and was sedated. He would not regain consciousness again for six more days.
Concerned for his health, the entire running class followed the ambulance to the hospital to wait for any news. Bobby’s wife, Jane, had been called and met them at the ER. Jane had no idea how grave the situation was, having only been told that he had “collapsed”. The ER doctor finally came into the waiting room and told the gathering crowd that, yes, Bobby had suffered a heart attack – and then he told Jane to gather the family and that Bobby wasn’t going to make it through the night!!!
In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, around 2 am or so, the cardiologist came to talk to Jane. “I have one shot at stabilizing Bobby. It is high risk, but I’m willing to take the risk if you are,” he says to Jane, who agrees because, as she would put it later, it was better than the NO chance she was told earlier! Three stents were used to clear three areas that the cardiologist said were 99%, 96%, and 95% blocked. He was very happy with the procedure and very hopeful for a better outcome in the next few days.
While Bobby remained in an induced coma, he was taken to CVICU with round-the-clock nurse care. Over the next couple of days, Bobby would return to the cath lab several times – the nurses would later joke that Bobby must have been trying to set a record for how many times one patient can go to the cath lab!
On Friday morning, following several tests, Bobby was taken to surgery for a triple bypass. Along with the multitudes of monitoring equipment that accompanied Bobby, there were seventeen different IV bags on four different carts! It took a whole crew just to move him! By noon, the surgeon was done and very happy with his work and for Bobby’s prognosis.
Following a couple of groggy, semi-conscious days, Bobby was fully awake on Monday morning. His first question to Jane was “What happened?” That’s when he first heard about his heart attack. He had no memory of that Tuesday or running or collapsing. Working with physical therapists who told him that he could go home as soon as he could walk up and down the stairs, he worked relentlessly on walking the halls. Wednesday, he tackled the stairs, twice. Thursday, he did it again. Friday morning, he was released from the hospital – eleven days after the heart attack that nearly took his life!
The next few weeks, Bobby and Jane returned to walk at the mall until he was up to walking three miles day. On May 21, 2011, Bobby WALKED in the Armed Forces 5K with his running class, just five weeks after triple bypass. The entire class walked with Bobby across the finish line!
As Bobby continued to run longer runs, he began using a Garmin Forerunner 610 with a heart monitor to make sure that he didn’t overdo it. After the first stress test following his heart attack, he asked his cardiologist if he could train for a half marathon and, with his blessing, Bobby ran his first half marathon in May 2012. Following his stress test in December 2012, Bobby asked if he could train for a full marathon. Again, it is with his cardiologist’s blessing that Bobby has been training for the Garmin Marathon in Olathe, April 20th, 2013.
Bobby has run 25 races, including several 5K’s, a few 10K’s, and two half marathons. He continues to use his Garmin Forerunner 610 for all of his training runs, although he doesn’t use the heart monitor any longer. The Garmin Marathon in Olathe will be his first FULL marathon – just two years after the heart attack that nearly killed him! This will probably be Bobby’s only full marathon, but this is one of his “bucket list” items that he can cross off the list!