Four-time NHRA champ Greg Anderson reveals how close he came to death without preseason heart surgery
May 16, 2014, 3:14 PM EST
In a very compelling – if not downright scary – story in the Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald Journal, for the first time four-time NHRA Pro Stock drag racing champ Greg Anderson reveals just how close he came to death had he not undergone heart surgery that forced him to miss the first six races of the 2014 season.
“The doctor told me we had to replace it (a failing bicuspid aortic valve),” Anderson told veteran drag racing writer Bobby Bennett Jr. of CompetitionPlus.com. “I told him I was a week away from starting the season, and I couldn’t do it (surgery).
“The doctor pleaded with me to get the procedure done because at any time it could explode with the higher blood pressure associated with driving a race car.”
The admittedly stubborn Anderson was ready to overrule the doctor and continued preparing for the season-opening NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif.
But prodding from Anderson’s wife and parents convinced him to undergo what wound up being life-saving surgery. Had he not, Anderson likely wouldn’t be with us today and back to racing in this weekend’s NHRA SouthernNationals in Commerce, Ga.
“When I came out of the surgery, (his doctor) told me I absolutely wouldn’t have made it through the first race,” Anderson said. “The doctor said the artery was so weak when he touched it, it just fell apart. The lining had been stretched so far and so thin. It wouldn’t have lasted through one more blood pressure spike.”
Even when he was being wheeled into the operating room, Anderson’s mind was still on racing when it should have been on recovery, asking his surgeon if everything went perfectly, could he move up the timetable for Anderson to return behind the wheel.
Fate took care of that question when Anderson suffered excessive blood loss, prompting doctors at first to think he had experienced a stroke.
“I’d look at them and want to talk, but the words wouldn’t come out right,” Anderson told Bennett. “They’d ask my name and I’d respond, ‘hockey puck.’
“I knew what I wanted to say, I just couldn’t answer. This went on for two days and they told my family I’d likely had a stroke and would never be the same. …They finally took me down and did a CAT scan and it came back negative for a stroke. On the third day, I was back and answered every question correctly.”
Now that he’s back to racing, Anderson is glad he listened to his family, rather than remain bullheaded.
“I feel very fortunate, the luckiest man in the world,” Anderson said. “I was this close to making the wrong decision because we, as racers, cannot sit out of a race. That seemed more important, to race. And, my family talked me into the right decision. I was too stupid to make the right decision.”
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