The Old Testament’s Ecclesiastes instructs that to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
There is, according to the text, a time to die.
Because he was in the right place, at the right time, and with the right people a year ago, it wasn’t Joe King’s time at last year’s Cowtown marathon.
He doesn’t believe that was mere coincidence.
“I hardly remember anybody in the emergency room,” said King, 57, the married father of three, boys age 22 and 17, and a 19-year-old daughter. “I remember Dr. [Alana] Snyder. I was laying on my back. She was standing at my head.
“I guess I came to. I opened my eyes and she said, ‘you died.’ I said ‘what!?’ She said, ‘yeah, we almost lost you.’ I remember her face.”
For the first time in his life, King will be a participant in The Cowtown. He and his seven siblings will be walking the 5K, which, along with the 10K race, is set for Feb. 24. The marathon. ultra, and half-marathon will be on Feb. 25.
The King family will be part of “Team Joel.”
He will be there in no small part because of the role the race played in saving his life. Even more important, his presence there will serve as notice to the benefits of living an active life and a healthy lifestyle.
This is all part of King’s new adaptations to a life after a heart attack. The past year has been his time to heal.
King’s experience at last year’s Cowtown was well-documented. He made the tour of local news outlets retelling his unlucky, yet very lucky, day.
King’s story so saturated the local media market that his friends and family joked that he was a celebrity.
“I told them, ‘it ain’t worth it.”
On the day of the marathon, King suffered a heart attack while picking up carts rented from his family owned Metro Golf Cars, which had been used for a horse show earlier that week on the east side the Will Rogers Memorial Center.
He knew something was wrong, but wasn’t sure. He felt “something” in his chest, he was light headed and dizzy, and he had numbness in his right hand. He even stopped to look for heart attack symptoms on his phone.
And he knew all too well that his father had suffered a fatal heart attack about the same age.
He had seen the EMTs on site as part of the marathon preparation. He approached one, who took him to The Cowtown’s medical tent, where a team of doctors stand at the ready for any issues runners might encounter while on the course or afterward.
As it turned out, King died or almost died – depending on your perspective – from a “widowmaker” heart attack, the same that killed the fictitious Jack Pearson of current pop culture sensation This is Us.
The “widowmaker” results from a blockage of the left anterior descending artery, the largest of the three arteries providing blood to the heart. That artery is sometimes called the widomaker artery.
King’s artery was completely blocked.
“When I lost my dad, it was very traumatic for my family,” King said. “Your dad is gone, he was the owner of the company … everything just changes immediately. I was very thankful that didn’t fall on my family yet. Lose your dad, your husband … it turns your life upside down.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. More than 600,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. every year. That’s one in every four deaths.
Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease.
The key defense against heart disease is “decreasing risk factors,” said Alana Snyder, the medical director of the ER at Medical City Fort Worth who attended to King that day. “Keeping cholesterol in check, blood pressure under control, and [staying] on top of family history. [King] would be one to screen for heart disease earlier.”
Those facts and stats don’t really hit home until one finds himself in King’s shoes.
Before the heart attack, “I was on blood pressure medication and cholesterol medications,” King said. “I’m not overweight … I wasn’t skinny … 6-1, 210 pounds. I was pretty active … I was never an exerciser, but I did a lot of walking, moving around at work.
“You wouldn’t look at me and think I’m about to have a heart attack. I don’t smoke … I never have.”
He had even done a stress test a few years earlier, but there was nothing that stood out except, of course, his genetics.
Doctors at Medical City Fort Worth put two stents in to open the artery. That was the first step to fixing him.
Now, it was a time to get him rehabilitated, more active, and eating differently.
“The goal is to get them into exercise slower,” Snyder said. “A cardiac workout … get the blood pumping, as they say. Walking, gradually jogging.”
Today, he exercises three times a week through his cardio therapy. He is in Phase 3 of that plan. He has also, with, he noted, the help of his devoted wife, switched to a low-sodium diet. That was a big change at first, he said, but he has adjusted.
“If you saw me walking around, you wouldn’t even know I had an issue,” said King, a Joshua resident who also works a little ranch at the house. “So, it hasn’t changed a whole lot. I do get tired a little faster. But my life is pretty normal.”
So, now it is a time to walk.
In passing last year while on his “media tour,” King flippantly said that he would probably run the marathon next year.
“I wasn’t planning on doing it,” King said of the 5K. However, over the holidays “one of my brothers said ‘we ought to do that. We all should do it.’ They wanted to do it. I thought it would be fun.”
The family is doing more than that actually. Metro Golf Cars this year is also a marathon sponsor.
A small token to show their appreciation for the role The Cowtown played in saving their brother’s life.
“I know God’s hand was working,” King said. “I don’t know how much God manipulates each detail, but I do think he used the hands of the people involved. They were trained, skilled, they had practiced their skill, and when it was their time they responded.”