On March 4, Bob McCleskey, CEO of Sellen Construction, was playing basketball at the Washington Athletic Club (WAC) in a tournament. The WAC team was up against the Multnomah Athletic Club of Portland. He was playing hard, giving his all the way he always does.
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The last thing he remembers before he came to, is that he was feeling very dizzy. No pain. Just very dizzy. Then he passed out. His heart stopped. He was having a heart attack.
“There was no warning. No chest pain,” he says.
When he opened his eyes, he recalls looking up from the floor into the face of a man. “This guy, this angel who saved me was saying, ‘Bob, are you with me?’”
Within a couple of seconds McCleskey knew he had fainted, “and I just thought I was fine and was going to play the second half of the game.” After all, this guy is a competitor. Of course he would think that.
The guy he calls an angel is Dan Baggett, a manager at the Multnomah Athletic Club. “(Dan) was sitting on the bench when he saw me go down. He ran straight across the court to me. He knew it was a heart attack.”
McCleskey says within 40 seconds, Nicolas Porter, the scorekeeper for the tournament, and who is a part-time conditioning attendant for the WAC, ran to the other end of the court to get the defibrillator.
McCleskey says he learned they instantly put the defibrillator pads on his chest, gave the “stand clear” signal and flipped the switch. He was told the shock started his heart, but only for a few seconds before it stopped again. Then Baggett did about 30 chest compressions on him before McCleskey took a deep breath and came to, sense of humor still intact. “I asked the coach what he thought of the reverse lay-up I had made at the end of the first half,” he says.
Let me just insert here that Baggett has done five of these procedures in three years, according to McCleskey, who was told that three of those people lived. And, too, the WAC has to be acknowledged as well, for its thorough life-saving training of its staff. Nicolas Porter is a fairly new employee who recently went through the mandatory training required by the WAC. he snapped into action almost automatically.
McCleskey recounts that the medics arrived in less than 10 minutes. He remembers being loaded onto a gurney, remembers the ride in the ambulance, remembers hearing the words “heart attack,” and thinking that was not possible. After all he was fit, young, handled stress well and had no history of heart trouble in his family.
Since that initial disbelief, he has learned that a build-up of arterial plaque had ruptured and completely closed off an artery.
At Swedish Medical Center, Cherry Hill, cardiologist Dr. Gary Oppenheim inserted a stent to open the artery that was blocked.
Think about this: McCleskey is 52 years old, 6′ 4″ , 192 pounds. He gets annual physicals religiously; has low blood pressure, low cholesterol and, up to now, no health issues. He has played sports and exercised at least three times a week his whole life. He eats right and drinks moderately.
Now he is on four kinds of medicines and realizes life is fragile. Still, he is exercising, can’t wait to play basketball with the same intensity, and along with his wife, Kathy, is trying to pace himself to do things in moderation – doctor’s orders. He’d tell you he’s fine. Feels great. Hasn’t missed a beat. Almost.