Jim’s Story: Stroke

Jim suffered his stroke last year just as the season was coming to a peak.   He had contributed so much over the years and was a kind of talisman for the team.   His nature was always one of getting on with the work and enjoying doing it.   True to form he was back attending the next race – asked the hospital for a Saturday pass so tat he could do it.   Some guy!   Here is his own story of the year and the stroke incident.

“Training the cross country team was interesting as we had a bunch of kids that wanted to train hard and listened what the coaches were telling them. A few weeks before the State championships the varsity girls approached d Carol and I, asking “why Summit never performed well at Nationals.“   We told them that most of the kids take off on Thanksgiving vacation to Hawaii, Mexico or skiing, and when they return to school they are out of shape.

We told them that if you want to perform well at Nationals providing you qualify you need to ask your parents to postpone your vacation and stay in Bend and train. We gave them a few days to come back with an answer. All the girls informed us that they would be in Bend during the holidays and wanted to train for Nationals.

I had another health scare where I nearly kicked the bucket. One night I was watching TV when all of a sudden the room started spinning and I couldn’t see.   I thought, “Oh shit here comes the big one.” Carol was playing Bunco with friends at another location. I managed to find my phone, called Carol – that call went to her answering machine. I then tried to call my next door neighbor to no avail as I couldn’t see his number. I knew where 911 was on the phone which I called, told the dispatcher where I lived and thought I was having a stroke. While talking to the lady I started feeling sick and made a bee-line for the kitchen to throw up in the sink. As I could not see I ran into the kitchen table which knocked me on my arse. I managed to get up and make it to the sink. While throwing up I could hear the ambulance’s siren. I was still throwing up when help arrived. They put me in gurney asked me some questions and gave me an IV.   

Next thing I knew I was in hospital and a doctor asked if he had permission to give me clot buster. I said yes. Next thing I knew a friend was with me in the Intensive Care unit and said to me that if someone asks who she is tell her she is your niece. I guess I was in ER Care for 3 days before being transferred to Intensive Care. I had suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage on the right side of the brain where the clot was lodged.

Carol was at the hospital same time as me as Fred my neighbor when he saw the ambulance at the door called his wife to tell Carol to get home immediately. Seemingly when I tried to call she had turned off her phone because parents were calling her about their kids, and since she was having a night out with her friends she did not want to talk to parents.

One evening while in Intensive Care I had to go to the bathroom. After I had finished doing my business I tried to stand up and down I went hitting my head in the wall. I called for help and my daughter Amy opened the door and went running for a nurse. Between the two of them they managed to get me back to bed. Seemingly I was not to be left alone but when the nurse stepped out for something, down I went. I was rushed to have a scan, and when the results came back the bleeding in my brain had stopped. Being me I said to the Doctor that hitting one’s head on a wall might be part of the recovery process.

The first week I had to attend rehab and could hardly do anything. I couldn’t walk up or down 4 stairs without help. I was on a tether when they had me walking. I was hopeful without help. I made my mind up that I have to get out of this place.

Each day I was getting stronger and the medical staff kept asking what I wanted to do. I replied it is simple, “get me out of here.”

The Wednesday before the District Cross Country Championships which were being held in Bend. I told the medical staff it was imperative that I be allowed to attend the Champions. On Thursday they had me walking outside on the grass with a walker to see how I navigated grass and obstacles. I passed with flying colors. The staff had a meeting and decided to give me a pass to attend the meet as long as I had someone keep their eye on me.

I was picked up from the hospital by a good friend, Aaron Gordon who took me to the races. When I arrived I was enlightened to see Olivia Brooks an athlete whom I trained and now attends the University of Colorado. It was great day as Summit won all four races.

Aaron took me back to the hospital where I had to have a nap. Next day I had a battery of tests which I had failed seven days ago. This time I passed with flying colors scoring 35 out of 36. One of the tests was to stand on one leg then repeat with eyes closed. I never ever thought I would be standing with my eyes closed, on one leg, and I wasn’t even drunk.

After the tests there was a meeting with the doctors and Physical Therapy staff that I could home tomorrow. Thank goodness, I am out of here. Hospitals are great for taking care of you and getting you back on your feet. I like my own bed and surroundings and really dislike getting wakened up every hour. I know it is a necessity but if you don’t get sufficient sleep you are no use to anyone.

Even though I was delirious at times that when asked what the workout was for the runners, I could always come up with a workout they had to do. Most times I don’t remember her asking, but what I said was documented and the kids did the workout.

Carol was there every day helping me get around, cajoling me to behave myself and slow down. Amy my daughter for driving from Portland offering moral support and attending to my needs. Heather my daughter in Houston for calling every day and giving me words of encouragement. I would not let Heather fly up from Houston as I told her I will be up and about as I am going to beat this thing. I told her to visit when I was out of hospital which she did. I must thank all the people that showed up at the hospital to give me hell and good wishes. The Physical Therapy staff that brought me back from a physical wreck to near normal. Some people tell me that this will never happen as I don’t know what normal is.

I was discharged around lunch time on a Monday and showed up at the hills later to watch the team do the workout which I had prescribed earlier. It was an emotional moment for all and reminded them to focus on the task at hand which was to qualify and place at nationals. I wasn’t too worried about winning State as we had Jesuits number.

2018 – National Champions

The night before the State championships Carol invited Peter Thompson to give the runners a motivational speech which was a hit, and even today some of the team talk about the inspiration that received from the talk.

I kept the level of workouts at a high level and only eased up the week of nationals. I didn’t change the training protocol at all. Damian Olsen was in charge of taking care of developing the runner’s body strength through a regime of exercises developing core. Carol took care of the logistics, Dave Sjogren and Brendan Layden helped me monitor the workouts that I had developed. We had a good support team which one needs on the journey to compete well at a National level. We won state over Jesuits by 39 to 68 points. Fiona won the title and probably would have broken the course record if she didn’t have a hiccup the last 300 meters

The following week we headed to Boise for the Regional Championships where the top two team attend the National Championships. I told the girls to run as a team and we will be on the Dais. The girls won fairly easy with a score of 54 to 106 over Jesuit.

 Carol and I asked Stacey Hager one of our assistant coaches if she would be in charge of the team at Nationals which she accepted. Carol had to attend the USATF national convention. I couldn’t handle another championship where you are dictated as to where to go and what time you had to be there. At my age I am not too keen on following a regimented procedure.

I said I would show up the night prior to the race and would be there for the team on race day. I received a ride to Portland. Dave dropped me off at the hotel where I met up with Stacey and discussed the plans for tomorrow.

I rode the bus with the teams, and when we arrived at the race course. I went and walked the course noting where the water and mud was on the course. I returned to the holding area where I spent some time with the team before the start. At the start I told them where all the tough parts were on the course and said, “Run you usual race and with 1 kilometer from the finish, hit it and you will win this thing.” On leaving I looked at their faces and could see they were ready.

When I heard we were the leading team at 1 & 2 miles I said to myself there is no way we can lose this race as our team doesn’t start racing until 1 mile to the finish.

I headed towards the finish and stood at the bottom of the hill which is about 300 yards from the finish. As one of our runners approached the hill I would shout out “150’s.” (We do 150’s every workout.) Watching them take off I knew we had it in the bag.

After the race seeking out the kids I rounded them up and told them job well done. I was approached by an official and told to head to the awards stage with the team. The girls asked me “Well, how do you think we finished?” I replied, “We won the f*****g championship.” The organizers had three teams on the stage and they go through the drama of introducing the third team and then the second team and when that is done everyone knows who won.

We were announced as the winners with 120 points with North Napierville second with 186 points. We had went from leading by 16 points to 66 over the last mile. We were the first team from west of the Mississippi to win the nationals with a team that will be back next year to defend.

I was tired and emotionally drained and informed Stacey and Dave I am going home. They can attend the awards ceremony for Carol and I. Later we were to find out that we were announced as coaches of the meet.

It was amazing how many coaches would ask me “How many miles are the kids running?” Response, “Don’t know we run for minutes not miles.” Or the question, “How far are your tempo runs?” Response, “Don’t do any as we are only racing 5000 meters and there is no need for them.”

Dave Turnbull who is Summit’s head track coach gave me a ride home. When I entered the house, I opened a beer and smiled saying out loud, “We did it.”