PLUNKETT FIGURES HE OWES HIS LIFE TO THE PEACHTREE ROAD RACE, AS WELL AS
TO EMORY'S CARLYLE FRASER HEART CENTER.
Four years ago, in perfect health and excellent physical shape, with no
family history of heart problems, the 50-something Plunkett had crossed
the starting line, expecting a pleasant run. But at Peachtree and 17th,
he pitched forward, unconscious. A physician running close by began sternum-crushing
CPR, as medics from a Grady Hospital ambulance stationed at that precise
corner raced to his side with a defibrillator.
Restarting his heart took three blasts, the last at such high power that
his chest was burned. Within minutes he was being wheeled into Emory Crawford
Long Hospital’s emergency room only blocks away. Three hours after
crossing the starting line, instead of enjoying a celebratory brunch with
his family, Plunkett was undergoing emergency triple bypass surgery.
He later realized the morning had been an orchestration of good luck and good timing, starting with the cry, “Runner down!” Since Plunkett had no prior symptoms from the three major blockages found in his heart, no pain at the time of his heart attack, he might have died before anyone noticed had the attack occurred in the comfort of his own bed. But the fifth-generation Atlantan also tells everyone he meets that he owes his life to the accumulation of expertise and dedication waiting for him at the Carlyle Fraser Heart Center, what he calls “that hidden treasure down on Linden Avenue.” “I have been in business for a long time,” he says, “and I can tell when people have put together a crackerjack team. That’s what I had.”
Knowing many runners fear failure to get a Peachtree t-shirt second only to death, the Atlanta Track Club later presented a prized shirt to Plunkett. He had it framed and gave it to Emory Crawford Long Hospital, where it hangs today. (All race shirts earned since his successful surgery and rehabilitation at Emory, he keeps!) Plunkett also has turned his gratitude into learning more about Emory Healthcare as a member of the Emory Hospitals Visiting Committee and a supporter of the Emory Heart Center’s push to develop ever better cardiac care, including ways of detecting hidden problems like he had. That, he says, is a race well worth winning.
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