Bloomington football coach Tom Conner is young (35 years old) and presumably in good shape. So when he felt sharp chest pains during a pickup basketball game last Thursday at Bloomington High School, he was predictably alarmed.
“I was playing basketball and all of a sudden I got this sharp pain,” Conner said. “I told the coaches with me that it probably sounds silly but I need to get to the emergency room right away. It’s a 40-50 minute wait for the paramedics to get to Bloomington and back and I needed to get there right away.”
Conner ended up having a pretty substantial heart attack, both at BHS and at Kaiser Permanente Hospital, where he was put on a defibrillator twice to revive him. For a young coach and counselor at Bloomington without a family history of heart trouble, it was quite a shock. I personally was shocked when I heard the news after arriving back in Southern California this past weekend.
“My grandfather was a coal miner who died at 55 and my father died of cancer when he was 54, but there wasn’t any heart trouble that I knew of,” Conner said. “It’s quite jarring. I’m young, in decent shape, I exercise and I thought I was doing all of the right things. My cholesterol was high, but I had started on a Mediterranean diet with less red meat and more salad and chicken.”
Conner was revived at Kaiser and transferred to St. Bernardine Hospital Thursday night, where he remained until being released on Monday. In the interim he had a stent – which is basically a spring that keeps arteries from closing – inserting into a blocked artery that triggered the heart attacks.
“It’s something I have for the rest of my life,” Conner said. “I’m just thankful to still be here to be honest. The whole Bloomington community rallied around me, I had sisters from West Virginia and Florida who I hadn’t seen in five years fly in and my wife and two kids were right by my side.”
Conner thanked his wife Rachael and his sons Brandon (age 6) and Sean (age 4), along with St. Bernardine’s Dr. Ashis Mukherjee, Colton Unified School District Superintendent James Downs, school board member Pat Haro and BHS principal Ingacio Cabrera for their support, among others.
Conner cites outside stress, culminating in having to evict tenants from a home in Victorville that he owns, as a trigger to his heart attack. He will take it easy for the next month at home, save a meeting with the football team next week though. But he plans on being back coaching the Bruins during spring ball in May.
“I can’t wait to get back to coaching and counseling,” Conner said. “I’m going to be out there and we are going to continue to build this program the right way.”