Douglas was at a peak of fitness and had done all the right things; eating healthily, losing weight, working out. So when he felt a terrible back-ache at the Notre Dame game he didn't think of cardiac issues. Alas, he didn't get to see his alma mater kickoff. Neither did his father. They spent the next week in a hospital trying to understand what caused Douglas to fall face down on the pavement at the tailgate party.
A pediatrician from Kentucky was also attending the pre-game tailgate, and started CPR immediately. Another doctor came over from the other end of the parking lot, plus they had a medical cart that had an AED. "The EMTS from Notre Dame fire department came quickly. I've met them all, there were about nine of them! Two of the bigger gentlemen took over the CPR and crushed my ribs and all that fun stuff," Douglas said with a laugh. They also shocked him nine times to get a rhythm, and estimated he had been without a pulse for 52 minutes.
Within the half hour Douglas was in a catheterization lab and receiving two stents to open the blocked arteries, and put under hypothermic cooling protocol.
"I went down on Saturday night and was in that hospital till the Monday morning. They thought I needed a heart transplant, so they airlifted me to Northwestern in Chicago," Douglas said quickly.
Luckily, after 24 hours on the list they decided transplanting was not warranted and transferred him to cardiac ICU, where he remained for two weeks. Another session in the cath lab left him with a third stent and he was discharged.
He didn't return to work until the New Year, around two months off work.
"Fast forward to April and, ironically I'd just come back from Chicago, it was around 10pm and I ended up going to the emergency room. They wanted me to fill out all the paperwork and I said 'This has happened before, I rather just go back there [into the ER ward].' They did an EKG and my heat rate was 218bpm." Douglas recalled. "Long story short, they had to shock me to get me back to a rhythm, [but] I flatlined and they had to do CPR and cracked my ribs again. And they airlifted me to another hospital," he said in exasperation.
There he received an ICD and was discharged two days later.
"Before I had the ICD... every time my back hurt, or I didn't feel right, I didn't know if it was just my muscles or something worse was happening," Douglas said with a catch in his voice. "It's nice to know I have it there, it's monitoring [his heart rhythm] ...and they can tell me if there's any irregularities. It's a nice thing to have, and now I don't even feel it."