- Associated Press - Thursday, November 26, 2015

GREELEY, Colo. (AP) - Up to the day he died, Jim Lord was a model heart patient.

He wasn’t before the chest pains. He admits that now. But for most of us, it takes something like that to get us to exercise.

Lord, born and raised in Greeley, had just turned 60, with a demanding job he loved at State Farm, three grown kids from a blended marriage and a couple grandkids. Exercise wasn’t a priority. Then he had the chest pains.

Doctors put stents in his arteries and sent him to the Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at North Colorado Medical Center. Lord’s diet was already pretty good - Mediterranean, he said - and, fully awakened to his need for working out, he became a doctor’s dream. He’d get up in the morning and walk four miles, and he hit the hospital’s gym at night. Five times per week, he lifted and sweated and embraced the camaraderie of the other patients there.

All that meant the mile walk to the Weld County Garage to get his car wasn’t all that unusual, even if it was in April, just months after his operation in August 2014. He does not remember that walk today.

What he’s been told is he went to the Weld County Garage, then he collapsed and died. A mechanic, Steve Rohn, performed CPR on him.

He’s since been told the odds aren’t good for those who need to be revived outside the hospital. Less than 10 percent survive it, and less than 5 percent escape without damage to the brain.

Lord has a strong faith. He briefly attended seminary in Denver, and he says things like “Oh My Land” instead of “OMG.” But he also believes Rohn saved his life - in every way possible.

Lord had a blood clot that day, and this may be simplifying it, but it apparently got hung up in one of the arteries doctors didn’t want to stent because it was sensitive. The artery, Lord said, was just clogged enough to be a problem for the blood clot but not for a healthy life.

Once he recovered, Lord made even more changes to his life.

He made the painful decision to retire from State Farm. He further embraced the gang that worked out with him at NCMC. He continued to go in the evening even though he had more free time, as those people called him and visited him after his event. He even bought himself a Fit Bit from his retirement gift certificate to Amazon, a gift people got him because he was such an avid reader. He taught himself not to sweat the small stuff, something he extolled as a manager but failed to do himself.

Mostly, though, he had to learn not to be afraid. He asked questions after his close call. What if, for instance, he’d been in the middle of his walk with his wife, Charlotte, instead of at Weld County Garage? What if he’d left for that walk five minutes later?

He’s now 61, and he still gets emotional.

On Monday, he presented a donation to Weld County Garage - an automated external defibrillator - and he met the man who saved his life. He’s also acting as the honorary chairman of Thursday’s Turkey Trot, Greeley’s biggest 5K of the year, which benefits the hospital’s cardiac rehab program.

He’s traveling with Charlotte and crossing off national parks to visit. He also enjoys hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The last time he went, he walked around Bear Lake and up a steep trail to Nymph a mile away.

He found the best way to recover from death was to have the courage to enjoy life.

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